When going down stairs the next morning I was surprised, the hour was so early, at finding my uncle and aunt, with their two farm servants, already seated at the breakfast table. I must confess that these two farm servants seemed to me strangely out of place, sitting thus familiarly at the same table with their master and mistress. My uncle introduced them to me, by the names of Mr. Barnes and Mr. Hawkins, their Christian names being Solomon and Obadiah, and by those names they were mostly called in my uncle’s family. Solomon, was a good humored looking man of some thirty years of age; he had, I afterwards learned, been for some years in my uncle’s employ. Obadiah was a youth of about seventeen years of age. His extreme bashfulness in the presence of strangers in general, and of ladies in particular, caused him to appear very awkward. Added to this, he was, to use a common term, very homely in his personal appearance. His hair was very light, almost white; his eyes too were of a very light color, and uncommonly large and prominent. He was also freckled, and very much sunburned. He seemed very much over-grown, and his general appearance suggested the idea that he must be in his own way—a position of which he seemed painfully conscious. He had a most unpleasant habit of keeping his eyes constantly in motion. As I was seated directly opposite to him at the breakfast table, I found it very difficult to restrain my inclination to laughter, for I could not raise my eyes without encountering one of those furtive glances. The idea occurred to me that he was meditating on some means of escape from the table, and it was with much difficulty that I maintained a becoming gravity. I was very glad, however, when my uncle made some remark which provoked a general laugh; but I am ashamed to acknowledge that I looked to see what effect a smile would have upon the countenance of Obadiah; but my curiosity, however, was not to be gratified, for, judging by his appearance, his thoughts were of too serious a nature to admit laughter. I was glad when breakfast was over, and I am certain that Obadiah was more than glad.
My aunt, like most of the farmers’ wives in the vicinity, had no assistance in performing her household work, except in very busy seasons. I begged of her to allow me to assist her, although I feared that I should appear very awkward in the performance of duties to which I was so little accustomed. My aunt at first refused, saying I was not accustomed to kitchen-work. But when I begged to be allowed to try my hand in assisting her, she brought me one of her large, checked aprons, which she advised me to put on. Thus attired, I washed and wiped the breakfast dishes, and arranged them in her spotless cupboard, saying to her that, while I remained an inmate of her house, she must allow me to assist her to the best of my ability, adding that I should be much happier if allowed to assist in her labors, than otherwise. Seeing me so anxious, my aunt allowed me to take my own way in the matter. I succeeded much better than I had feared; and when the morning’s work was finished, my aunt laughingly said that, with a little practice, she thought I should make a very useful kitchen-maid.