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I Do not know when I have been better pleased than at being invited last week to be present at the wedding of a friend's daughter. I like to make one at these ceremonies, which to us old people give back our youth in a manner, and restore our gayest season, in the remembrance of our own success, or the regrets, scarcely less tender, of our own youthful disappointments, in this point of a settlement. On these occasions I am sure to be in good-humour for a week or two after, and enjoy a reflected honey-moon. Being without a family, I am flattered with these temporary adoptions into a friend's family; I feel a sort of cousinhood, or uncleship, for the season; I am inducted into degrees of affinity; and, in the participated socialities of the little community, I lay down for a brief while my solitary bachelorship. I carry this humour so far, that I take it unkindly to be left out, even when a funeral is going on in the house of a dear friend. But to my subject.
The union itself had been long settled, but its celebration had been hitherto deferred, to an almost unreasonable state of suspense in the lovers, by some invincible prejudices which the bride's father had unhappily contracted upon the subject of the too early marriages of females. He has been lecturing any time these five years—for to that length the courtship has been protracted— upon the propriety of putting off the solemnity, till the lady should have completed her five-and-twentieth year. We all began to be afraid that a suit, which as yet had abated of none of its ardours, might at last be lingered on, till passion had time to cool, and love go out in the experiment. But a little wheedling on the part of his wife, who was by no means a party to these overstrained notions, joined to some serious expostulations on that of his friends, who, from the growing infirmities of the old gentleman, could not promise ourselves many years' enjoyment of his company, and were anxious to bring matters to a conclusion
during his lifetime, at length prevailed; and on Monday last the daughter of my old
friend, Admiral , having attained the
womanly age of nineteen, was conducted to
the church ;by her pleasant cousin J ,
who told some few years older.
Before the youthful part of my female readers express their indignation at the abominable loss of time occasioned to the lovers by the preposterous notions of my old friend, they will do well to consider the reluctance which a fond parent naturally feels at parting with his child. To this unwillingness, I believe, in most cases may be traced the difference of opinion on this point between child and parent, whatever pretences of interest or prudence may be held out to cover it. The hard-heartedness of fathers is a fine theme for romance writers, a sure and moving topic; but is there not something untender, to say no more of it, in the hurry which a beloved child is sometimes in to tear herself from the paternal stock, and commit herself to strange graftings? The case is heightened where the lady, as in the present instance, happens to be an only child. I do not understand these matters experimentally, but I can make a shrewd guess at the wounded pride of a parent upon these occasions. It is no new observation, I believe, that a lover in most cases has no rival so much to be feared as the father. Certainly there is a jealousy in unparalleled subjects, which is little less heart-rending than the passion which we more strictly christen by that name. Mothers' scruples are more easily got over; for this reason, I suppose, that the protection transferred to a husband is less a derogation and a loss to their authority than to the paternal. Mothers, besides, have a trembling foresight, which paints the inconveniences (impossible to be conceived in the same degree by the other parent) of a life of forlorn celibacy, which the refusal of a tolerable match may entail upon their child. Mothers' instinct is a surer guide here, than the cold reasonings of a father on such a topic. To this instinct may be imputed, and by it alone may be excused the unbeseeming artifices, by which some wives push on the matrimonial projects of their daughters, which the husband, however approving, shall entertain with comparative indifference. A little shamelessness on this head is pardonable. With this explanation, forwardness becomes a grace, and maternal importunity receives the name of a virtue.— But the parson stays, while I preposterously assume his office; I am preaching, while the bride is on the threshold.
Nor let any of my female readers suppose that the sage reflections which have just escaped me have the obliquest tendency of application to the young lady, who, it will be seen, is about to venture upon a change in her condition, at a mature and competent age, and not without the fullest approbation of all parties. I only deprecate very hasty marriages.
It had been fixed that the ceremony should be gone through at an early hour, to give time for a little dejeuni afterwards, to which a select party of friends had been invited. We were in church a little before the clock struck eight.
Nothing could be more judicious or graceful than the dress of the bride-maids—the three charming Miss Foresters — on this morning. To give the bride an opportunity of shining singly, they had come habited all in green. I am ill at describing female apparel; but while she stood at the altar in vestments white and candid as her thoughts, a sacrificial whiteness, they assisted in robes, such as might become Diana's nymphs — Foresters indeed—as such who had not yet come to the resolution of putting off cold virginity. These young maids, not being so blest as to have a mother living, I am told, keep single for their father's sake, and live altogether so happy with their remaining parent, that the hearts of their lovers are ever broken with the prospect (so inauspicious to their hopes) of such uninterrupted and provoking home-comfort. Gallant girls! each a victim worthy of Iphigenia!
I do not know what business I have to be present in solemn places. I cannot divest me of an unseasonable disposition to levity upon the most awful occasions. I was never cut out for a public functionary. Ceremony
and I have long shaken hands ; but I could not resist the importunities of the young lady's father, whose gout unhappily confined him at home, to act as parent on this occasion, and give away the bride. Something ludicrous occurred to me at this most serious of all moments—a sense of my unfitness to have the disposal, even in imagination, of the sweet young creature beside me. I fear I was betrayed to some lightness, for the awful eye of the parson—and the rector's eye of Saint Mildred's in the Poultry is no trifle of a rebuke — was upon me in an instant, souring my incipient jest to the tristful severities of a funeral.
This was the only misbehaviour which I can plead to upon this solemn occasion, unless what was objected to me after the ceremony, by one of the handsome
Miss T 8, be accounted a solecism. She
was pleased to say that she had never seen a gentleman before me give away a bride, in black. Now black has been my ordinary apparel so long—indeed I take it to be the proper costume of an author — the stage sanctions it—that to have appeared in some lighter colour would have raised more mirth at my expense, than the anomaly had created censure. But I could perceive that the bride's mother, and some elderly ladies present (God bless them !) would have been well content, if I had come in any other colour than that. But I got over the omen by a lucky apologue, which I remembered out of Pilpay, or some Indian author, of all the birds being invited to the linnet's wedding, at which, when all the rest came in their gayest feathers, the raven alone apologised for his cloak because " he had no other." This tolerably reconciled the elders. But with the young people all was merriment, and shaking of hands, and congratulations, and kissing away the bride's tears, and kissing from her in return, till a young lady, who assumed some experience in these matters, having worn the nuptial bands some four or five weeks longer than her friend, rescued her, archly observing, with half an eye upon the bridegroom, that at this rate she would have " none left."
My friend the Admiral was in fine wig and buckle on this occasion—a striking contrast to his usual neglect of personal appearance. He did not once shove up his borrowed locks (his custom ever at his morning studies) to betray the few grey stragglers of his own beneath them. He wore an aspect of thoughtful satisfaction. I trembled for the hour, which at length approached, when after a protracted breakfast of three hours— if stores of cold fowls, tongues, hams, botargoes, dried fruits, wines, cordials, &c., can deserve so meagre an appellation—the coach was announced, which was come to carry off the bride and bridegroom for a season, as custom has sensibly ordained, into the country; upon which design, wishing them a felicitous journey, let us return to the assembled guests.
As when a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
The eyca of men
Are idly bent on him that enters next,
so idly did we bend our eyes upon one another, when the chief performers in the morning's pageant had vanished. None told his tale. None sipped her glass. The poor Admiral made an effort—it was not much. I had anticipated so far. Even the infinity of full satisfaction, that had betrayed itself through the prim looks and quiet deportment of his lady, began to wane into something of misgiving. No one knew whether to take their leaves or stay. We seemed assembled upon a silly occasion. In this crisis, betwixt tarrying and departure, I must do justice to a foolish talent of mine, which had otherwise like to have brought me into disgrace in the fore-part of the day; I mean a power, in any emergency, of thinking and giving vent to all manner of strange nonsense. In this awkward dilemma I found it sovereign. I rattled off some of my most excellent absurdities. All were willing to be relieved, at any expense of reason, from the pressure of the intolerable vacuum which had succeeded to the morning bustle. By this means I was fortunate in keeping together the better part of the company to a late hour; and a rubber of whist (the Admiral's favourite game) with some rare
strokes of chance as well as skill, which came opportunely on his side—lengthened out till midnight—dismissed the old gentleman at last to his bed with comparatively easy spirits.
I have been at my old friend's various times since. I do not know a visiting place where every guest is so perfectly at his ease; nowhere, where harmony is so strangely the result of confusion. Everybody is at cross purposes, yet the effect is so much better than uniformity. Contradictory orders; servants pulling one way ; master and mistress driving some other, yet both diverse; visitors huddled up in corners; chairs unsymmetrised ; caudles disposed by chance; meals at odd hours, tea and supper at once, or the latter preceding the former; the host and the guest conferring, yet each upon a different topic, each understanding himself, neither trying to understand or hear the other; draughts and politics, chess and political economy, cards and conversation on nautical matters, going on at once, without the hope, or indeed the wish, of distinguishing them, make it altogether the most perfect concordia discors you shall meet with. Yet somehow the old house is not quite what it should be. The Admiral still enjoys his pipe, but he has no Miss Emily to fill it for him. The instrument stands where it stood, but she is gone, whose delicate touch could sometimes for a short minute appease the warring elements. He has learnt, as Marvel expresses it, to "make his destiny his choice." He bears bravely up, but he does not come out with his flashes of wild wit so thick as formerly. His sea-songs seldomer escape him. His wife, too, looks as if she wanted some younger body to scold and set to rights. We all miss a junior presence. It is wonderful how one young maiden freshens up, and keeps green, the paternal roof. Old and young seem to have an interest in her, so long as she is not absolutely disposed of. The youthfulness of the house is flown. Emily is married.
REJOICINGS UPON THE NEW YEAR'S COMING OF AGE.
The Old Tear being dead, and the New Tear coming of age, which he does, by Calendar Law, as soon as the breath is out of the old gentleman's body, nothing would serve the young spark but he must give a dinner upon the occasion, to which all the Days in the year were invited. The Festivals, whom he deputed as his stewards, were mightily taken with the notion. They had been engaged time out of mind, they said, in providing mirth and good cheer for mortals below ; and it was time they should have a taste of their own bounty. It was stiffly debated among them whether the Fasts should be admitted. Some said the appearance of such lean, starved guests, with their mortified faces, would pervert the ends of the meeting. But the objection was overruled by Christmas Day, who had a design upon Ash Wednesday (as you shall hear), and a mighty desire to see how the old Domine would behave himself in his cups. Only the Vigils were requested to come with their lanterns, to light the gentlefolks home at night.
All the Days came to their day. Covers were provided for three hundred and sixtyfive guests at the principal table; with an occasional knife and fork at the side-board for the Twenty-Ninth of February.
I should have told you that cards of invitation had been issued. The carriers were the Hours; twelve little, merry, whirligig foot-pages, as you should desire to see, that went all round, and found out the persons invited well enough, with the exception of Easter Day, Shrove Tuesday, and a few such Moveables, who had lately shifted their quarters.
Well, they all met at last, foul Days, fine Days, all sorts of Days, and a rare din they made of it. There was nothing but, Hail! fellow Day,—well met—brother Day—sister Day—only Lady Day kept a little on the aloof, and seemed somewhat scornful. Yet some said, Twelfth Day cut her out and out, for she came in a tiflany suit, white and
gold, like a queen on a frost-cake, all royal, glittering, and Epiphanous. The rest came, some in green, some in white—but old Lent and his family were not yet out of mourning. Rainy Days came in, dripping; and sunshiny Days helped them to change their stockings. Wedding Day was there in his marriage finery, a little the worse for wear. Pay Day came late, as he always does; and Doomsday sent word—he might be expected.
April Fool (as my young lord's jester) took upon himself to marshal the guests, and wild work he made with it. It would have posed old Erra Pater to have found out any given Day in the year, to erect a scheme upon—good Days, bad Days, were so shuffled together, to the confounding of all sober horoscopy.
He had stuck the Twenty-First of June next to the Twenty-Second of December, and the former looked like a Maypole siding a marrow-bone. Ash Wednesday got wedged in (as was concerted) betwixt Christmas and Lord Mayor's Days. Lord! how he laid about him! Nothing but barons of beef and turkeys would go down with him—to the great greasing and detriment of his new sackcloth bib and tucker. And still Christmas Day was at his elbow, plying him with the wassail-bowl, till he roared, and hiccupp'd, and protested there was no faith in dried ling, but commended it to the devil for a sour, windy, acrimonious, censorious, hy-pocrit-crit-critical mess, and no dish for a gentleman. Then he dipt his fist into the middle of the great custard that stood before his left hand neighbour, and daubed his hungry beard all over with it, till you would have taken him for the Last Day in December, it so hung in icicles.
At another part of the table, Shrove Tuesday was helping the Second of September to some cock broth,—which courtesy the latter returned with the delicate thigh of a hen pheasant—so there was no love lost for that matter. The Last of Lent was spunging upon Shrovetide's pancakes; which April Fool perceiving, told him he did well, for pancakes were proper to a good fry-day.
In another part, a hubbub arose about the Thirtieth of January, who, it seems, being a sour, puritanic character, that thought nobody's meat good or sanctified enough for him, had smuggled into the room a calf's head, which he had had cooked at home for that purpose, thinking to feast thereon incontinently; but as it lay in the dish, March Manyweathers, who is a very fine lady, and subject to the meagrims, screamed out there was a "human head in the platter," and raved about Herodias' daughter to that degree, that the obnoxious viand was obliged to be removed; nor did she recover her stomach till she had gulped down a Restorative, confected of Oak Apple, which the merry Twenty-Ninth of May always carries about with him for that purpose.
The King's health* being called for after this, a notable dispute arose between the Twelfth of A a if a At. (a zealous old Whig gentlewoman) and the Twenty-Third of April (a new-fangled lady of the Tory stamp), as to which of them should have the honour to propose it. August grew hot upon the matter, affirming time out of mind the prescriptive right to have lain with her, till her rival had basely supplanted her; whom she represented as little better than a kept mistress, who went about mfine clothes, while she (the legitimate Birthday) had scarcely a rag, &c.
April Fool, being made mediator, confirmed the right, in the strongest form of words, to the appellant, but decided for peace' sake that the exercise of it should remain with the present possessor. At the same time, he slyly rounded the first lady in the ear, that an action might lie against the Crown for bi-geny.
It beginning to grow a little duskish, Candlemas lustily bawled out for lights, which was opposed by all the Days, who protested against burning daylight. Then fair water was handed round in silver ewers, and the same lady was observed to take an unusual time in Washing herself.
May Day, with that sweetness which is peculiar to her, in a neat speech proposing the health of the founder, crowned her
• King George rv.
goblet (and by her example the rest of the company) with garlands. This being done, the lordly New Year, from the upper end of the table, in a cordial but somewhat lofty tone, returned thanks. He felt proud on an occasion of meeting so many of his worthy father's late tenants, promised to improve their farms, and at the same time to abate (if anything was found unreasonable) in their rents.
At the mention of this, the four Quarter Days involuntarily looked at each other, and smiled ; April Fool whistled to an old tune of "New Brooms;" and a surly old rebel at the further end of the table (who was discovered to be no other than the Fifth of November) muttered out, distinctly enough to be heard by the whole company, words to this effect, that "when the old one is gone, he is a fool that looks for a better." Which rudeness of his, the guests resenting, unanimously voted his expulsion; and the malecontent was thrust out neck and heels into the cellar, as the properest place for such a boutefeu and firebrand as he had shown himself to be.
Order being restored—the young lord (who, to say truth, had been a little ruffled, and put beside his oratory) in as few, and yet as obliging words as possible, assured them of entire welcome; and, with a graceful turn, singling out poor Twenty-Ninth of February, that had sate all this while mumchance at the side-board, begged to couple his health with that of the good company before him—which he drank accordingly; observing that he had not seen his honest face any time these four years—with a number of endearing expressions besides. At the same time, removing the solitary Day from the forlorn seat which had been assigned him, he stationed him at his own board, somewhere between the Greek Calends and Latter Lammas.
Ash Wednesday, being now called upon for a song, with his eyes fast stuck in his head, and as well as the Canary he had swallowed would give him leave, struck up a Carol, which Christmas Day had taught him for the nonce; and was followed by the latter, who gave " Miserere," in fine style, hitting off the mumping notes and lengthened drawl of Old Mortification with infinite humour. April Fool swore they had exchanged conditions;