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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

Winter Episodes in Maine

By Eliza Southgate Bowne (1783–1809)

[Born in Scarboro, Me. Daughter of Robert Southgate, and wife of Walter Bowne, Mayor of New York. Died at Charleston, S. C., 1809. By permission of Mr. Walter Lawrence, from Letters copied from the originals by his mother, Mrs. Mary King Bowne Laurence.]

SUCH a frolic! Such a chain of adventures I never before met with—nay, the page of romance never presented its equal. ’Tis now Monday—but a little more method, that I may be understood. I have just ended my assembly’s adventure; never got home till this morning. Thursday it snowed violently—indeed for two days before it had been storming so much that the snow-drifts were very large; however, as it was the last assembly, I could not resist the temptation of going, as I knew all the world would be there. About seven I went down-stairs and found young Charles Coffin, the minister, in the parlor. After the usual inquiries were over, he stared a while at my feathers and flowers, asked if I was going out. I told him I was going to the assembly. “Think, Miss Southgate,” said he, after a long pause, “Do you think you would go out to meeting in such a storm as this?” Then assuming a tone of reproof, he entreated me to examine well my feelings on such an occasion. I heard in silence, unwilling to begin an argument that I was unable to support. The stopping of the carriage roused me; I immediately slipped on my socks and coat and met Horatio and Mr. Motley in the entry. The snow was deep, but Mr. Motley took me up in his arms and sat me in the carriage without difficulty. I found a full assembly, many married ladies, and every one disposed to end the winter in good spirits. At one we left dancing and went to the card-room to wait for a coach. It stormed dreadfully; the hacks were all employed as soon as they returned, and we could not get one till three o’clock, for about two they left the house, determined not to return again for the night. It was the most violent storm I ever knew, there were now twenty in waiting, the gentlemen scolding and fretting, the ladies murmuring and complaining. One hack returned; all flocked to the stairs to engage a seat. So many crowded down that ’twas impossible to get past; luckily I was one of the first. I stepped in; found a young lady, almost a stranger in town, who keeps at Mrs. Jordan’s, sitting in the back seat; she immediately caught hold of me and begged, if I possibly could accommodate her, to take her home with me, as she had attempted to go to Mrs. Jordan’s, but the drifts were so high, the horses could not get through; that they were compelled to return to the hall, where she had not a single acquaintance with whom she could go home. I was distressed, for I could not ask her home with me—for sister had so much company that I was obliged to go home with Sally Weeks and give my chamber to Parson Coffin. I told her this and likewise that she should be provided for if my endeavors could be of any service. None but ladies were permitted to get into the carriage; it presently was stowed in [so] full that the horses could not move. The door was burst open, for such a clamor as the closing of it occasioned I never before heard; the universal cry was—“A gentleman in the coach,” “let him come out.” We all protested there was none, as it was too dark to distinguish—but the little man soon raised his voice and bid the coachman proceed. A dozen voices gave contrary orders—’twas a proper riot. I was really alarmed. My gentleman, with a vast deal of fashionable independence, swore no power on earth should make him quit his seat, but a gentleman at the door jumped into the carriage, caught hold of him, and would have dragged him out if we had not all entreated them to desist. He squeezed again into his seat, inwardly exulting to think he should get safe home from such rough creatures as the men, should pass for a lady, be secure under their protection, for none would insult him before them—mean creature! The carriage at length started, full of ladies and not one gentleman to protect us—except our ladyman who had crept to us for shelter. When we found ourselves in the street, the first thing was to find out who was in the carriage, and where we were all going, who first must be left. Luckily, two gentlemen had followed by the side of the carriage, and when it stopped took out the ladies as they got to their houses. Our sweet little trembling, delicate, unprotected fellow sat immovable whilst the two gentlemen, that were obliged to walk through all the snow and storm, carried all the ladies from the carriage. What could be the motive of the little wretch for creeping in with us I know not; I should have thought ’twas his great wish to serve the ladies, if he had moved from the seat; but ’twas the most singular thing I ever heard of. We at length arrived at the place of our destination. Miss Weeks asked Miss Coffin (for that was the unlucky girl’s name) to go home with her, which she readily did; the gentlemen then proceeded to take us out. My beau, unused to carrying such a weight of sin [and] folly, sunk under its pressure, and I was obliged to carry my mighty self through the snow, which almost buried me. Such a time! I never shall forget it. My great-grandmother never told any of her youthful adventures to equal it.

The storm continued till Monday, and I was obliged to stay—but Monday I insisted, if there was any possibility of getting to sister’s, to set out. The horse and sleigh were soon at the door, and again I sallied forth to brave the tempestuous weather (for it still snowed) and surmount the many obstacles I had to meet with. We rode on a few rods—when coming directly upon a large drift we stuck fast. We could neither get forward nor turn round. After waiting till I was most frozen we got out, and with the help of a truckman, the sleigh was lifted up and turned towards a cross street that led to Federal Street—we again went on. At the corner we found it impossible to turn up in turn, but must go down and begin where we first started, and take a new course, but suddenly turning the corner we came full upon a pair of trucks heavily laden. The drift on one side was so large that it left a very narrow passage between that and the corner house—indeed we were obliged to go so near that the post grazed my bonnet. What was to be done? Our horses’ heads touched before we saw them—I jumped out—the sleigh was unfastened and lifted round, and we again measured back our old steps. At length we arrived at sister Boyd’s door, and the drift before it was the greatest we had met with. The horse was so exhausted that he sunk down, and we really thought him dead. ’Twas some distance from the gate, and no path; the gentleman took me up in his arms and carried me till my weight pressed him so far into the snow that he had no power to move his feet. I rolled out of his arms, and wallowed till I reached the gate; then rising to shake off the snow, I turned and beheld my beau fixed and immovable; he could not get his feet out to take another step. At length, making a great exertion to spring his whole length forward, he made out to reach the poor horse, who lay in a worse condition than his master. By this time all the family had gathered to the window—indeed, they saw the whole frolic; but ’twas not yet ended, for unluckily, in pulling off Miss Weeks’ bonnet to send to the sleigh to be carried back, I pulled off my wig and left my head bare. I was perfectly convulsed with laughter; think what a ludicrous figure I must have been—still standing at the gate—my bonnet half-way to the sleigh and my wig in my hand! However, I hurried it on—for they were all laughing at the window—and made the best of my way into the house; the horse was unhitched and again set out, and left me to ponder on the incidents of the morning. I have since heard of several events that took place that assembly night, much more amusing than mine—nay, Don Quixote’s most ludicrous adventures compared with some of them will appear like the common events of the day.
PORTLAND, MAINE, 1 March, 1802.