« PreviousContinue »
ing families, (especially by those who have marriageable daughters): From these gentlemen I have received familiar calls, and the most pressing invitations, and, though I wished to accept their offered friendship, I have reapeatedly excused myself under the pretence of not being quite settled; for the truth is, that when I have rode or walked, with full inten. tion to return their several visits, my heart has failed me as I approached their gates, and I have frequently returned homeward, resolving to try again to-mor
However, I at length determined to conquer my timidity, and three days ago, accepted of an invitation to dine this day with one, whose open casy manner left me 'no room to doubt a cordial welcome. Sir Thomas Friendly, who lives about two miles distant, is a baronet, with about two thousand pounds a year estate, joining to that I purchased; he has two sons, and five daughters, all grown up, and living with their motherand a maiden sister of Sir Thomas's, at Friendly
all, dependant on their father. Conscious of my unpolished gait, I have for some time past, taken private lessons of a professor, who teaches “grown gentlemn " to dance;" and though I at first found wonderous difficulty in the art he taught, my knowledge of the mathematics was of prodigious use, in teaching me the equilibrium of my body, and the due adjustment of the centre of gravity to the five positions. Having now acquired the art of walking without tottering, and learned to make a bow, I boldly ventured to obey the baronet's invitation to a family dinner, not doubting but my new acquirements would enable ine is to see the ladies with tolerable intrepidity: but alas! how vain are all the hopes of theory, when unsupporta red by habitual practice. As I approached the house,
dinner bell alarmed my fears, lest I had spoiled the slinner by want of puctuality; impressed with this idea, I bluslied the deepest crimson, as my name was repcatedly announced by the several livery servants.
who ushered me into the library, hardly knowing what or whom I saw; at my first entrance, I summoned all my fortitude and made my new-learned bow to Lady Friendly, but unfortunately in bringing back my left foot to the third position, I trod uper the gouty toe of poor Sir Thomas, who had followed close at my heels, to be the Nomenclator of the fam. ily. The confusion this occasioned in me is hardly to be conceived, since none but bashful men can judge of my distress, and of that description the number 1 believe is very small. The Baronet's politeness by degrees dissipated my concern, and I was astonished to see how far good-breeding could enable him to suppress his feelings, and to appear with perfect ease, after so painful an accident. The cheerfulness of her Ladyship, and the familiar chat of the young ladies, insensibly led me to throw off my reserve and sheepishness, till at length I ventured to join in conversation, and even to start fresh subjects. The library being richly furnished with books in elegant bindings, I conceived Sir Thomas to be a man of literature, and ventured to give my opinion concerning the several editions of the Greek classics, in which the Baronet's opinion exactly coincided with my own. to this subject I was led, by observing an edition of Xenophon in sixteen volumes, which (as I had never be fore heard of such a thing) greatly excited my curiosity, and I rose up to examine what it could be: Sir Thomas saw what I was about, and (as I suppose) willing to save me trouble, rose to take down the book, which made me more eager to prevent him, and, hastily laying my hand on the first volume, I pulled it forcibly; but lo!instead of books, a board, which by leather and gilding had been made to look like "sixteen volumes, came tumbling down and luckily pitched upon a Wedgwood ink-stand on the table under it. In vain did Sir Thomas assureme, there was no harm; I saw the ink streaming frosila
inlaid table on the Turkey carpet, and, scarce knowing what I did, attempted to stop its progress with my cambrick handerchief. In the height of this confusion, we were informed that dinner was served up, and I with joy perceived that the bell, which at first.. nad so alarmed my fears, was only the half hour dinner bell,
In walking through the hall, and suite of apartments to the dining-room, I had time to collect my scattered senses, and was desired to take my seat betwixt Lady Friendly and her eldest daughter at the table. Since the fall of the wooden Xenophon, my face had been continually burning like a firebrand, and I was just beginning to recover myself, and to feel comfortably cool, when an unlooked for accident, rekindled all my heat and blushes. Having set my plate of soup too near the edge of the table, in bowing to Miss Dinah, who politely complimented the pattern of my waistcoat, I tumbled the whole scalding contents into my lap. In Spite of an immediate supply of napkins to wipe the Surface of my clothes, my black silk breeches were not stout enough to save me from the painful effects of this sudden fomentation, and for some minutes my legs and thighs seemed stewing in a boiling caldrong but recollecting how. Sir Thomas had disguised his torture, when I trod upon his loe, I firmly bore my pain in silence, and sat with my lower extremities parboiled, amidst the stifled giggling of the ladies and the servants,
I will not relate the sever. al blunders which I made during the first course, or the distress occasioned by my being desired to carve a fowl, or help to various dishes that stood near me, spilling a sauce-boat, and knocking down a salt-seller; rather let me hasten to the second course, " where fresh disasters overwhelmed me quite."
I had a piece of rich sweet pudding on my fork, when Miss Louisa Friendly begged' to trouble me for a pigeon that stood near me; in my haste, scarce know.
ing what I did, I whipped the pudding into my mouth, hot as a burning coal; it was impossible to conceal my agony, my eyes were starting from their sockets. At last, in spite of shame and resolution, I was obliged to drop the cause of torment on my plates Sir Thomas and the ladies all compassionated my misfortune, and each advised a different application; one recommended oil, another water, but all agreed that wine was best for drawing out the fire; and a glass of sherry was brought me from the sideboard, which I snatched up with eagerness: but, oh! how shall I tell the sequel? whether the butler by accident nistook, or purposely designed to drive me mad, he gave me the strongest brandy, with which I filled my mouth, already flea'd and blistered; totally unused to every kind of ardent spirits, with my tongue, throat, and palate, as raw as beef, what could I do? I could not swallow, and, clapping my hands upon my mouth, the cursed liquor squirted through my nose and fingers like a fountain, over all the dishes; and I'crushed by bursts of laughter frori all quarters. In vain did Sir Thomas reprimand the servants, and Lady Friendly chide her daughters; for the measure of my shame and their diversion was not yet complete. To relieve me from the intolerable state of perspiration, which this accident had caused, without considering what I did, I wiped my face with that ill-fated handkerchief, which was still wet from the consequences of the fall of Xenophon, and covered all my features with streaks of ink in every direction. The Baronet himself could not support this shock, but joined his lady in the general laugh; while I sprung from the table in despair, rushed out of the house, and ran home in an agony of confusion and disgrace, which the most poignant sense of guilt could have excited. Thus, wirkt out having deviated from the path of moral rectitude, I am suffering torments like a “goblin damn'd."
The lower half of me has been almost boiled, my ongue and mouth grilled, and I bear the mark of Cain upon my forehead; yet these are but trifling bonsiderations, to the everlasting shame which I must bel, whenever this adventure shall be mentioned.
From Variety, a Collection of Essays,
written in the Year 1787.