« AnteriorContinuar »
breeding could enable him to suppress his feelings, and to appear in 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 the conversation, and even to start fresh subjects. The library being richly furnished with books of an elegant binding, 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 before 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 supposed, willing to save me the trouble, rose to take down the book—which made me the more eager to prevent him ; and, hastily laying my hand upon 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 unluckily pitched upon a Wedgewood inkstand that stood under it. In vain did Sir Thomas assure me there was no harm; I saw the ink streaming from an in-laid table on the Turkey carpet, and, scarce knowing what I did, attempted to stop its progress
white cambric handkerchief. 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 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 at the table betwixt Lady Friendly and her eldest daughter. Since the fall of the wooden Xenophon, my face had been continually burning like a fire-brand, and I was just beginning to recover myself, and to feel comfortably cool, when an unlooked-for accident rekindled all
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 sudden effects of this painful fomentation, and for some moments my legs and thighs seemed stewing in a boiling cauldron ; but, recollecting how Sir Tho
mas had disguised his torture, when I trod upon his toe, I firmly bore my pain in silence, and sat with my lower extremities parboiled, amidst the stifled giggling of the ladies and servants. I will not relate the several blunders which I made during the first course, or the distress occasioned by 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 knowing 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 plate. 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 the best for drawing out fire; and a glass of sherry was brought me from the sideboard, which I snatched
eagerness : : but oh, how shall I tell the sequel ! Whether the butler, by accident, mistook, or purposely designed to drive me mad, I am at a loss to conclude—but he gave me the strongest brandy, with which I filled my mouth already flayed 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 was crushed with bursts of laughter from 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 the accident had caused, without considering what I did, I wiped my face with that ill-fated handkerchief, which was still wet in consequence 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 not have excited.
Thus, without having deviated from the path of moral rectitude, I am suffering torments like a goblin d-ned.” The lower half of me has been almost boiled, my tongue and mouth grilled, and I bear the mark of Cain on my forehead ; yet these are but trifles to the everlasting shame which I must feel whenever this adventure shall be mentioned.
JOHN GILPIN'S JOURNEY.
Of credit and renown;
Of famous London town.
66 Tho' wedded we have been
“ No holiday have seen.
“ And we will then repair
• Myself and children three,
6 On horseback after we.”
“ Of woman-kind but one,-
« Therefore it shall be done.
“ As all the world doth know;
“ Will lend his horse to go.”
6 And, for that wine is dear,
“Which is both bright and clear.”
John Gilpin kiss'd his loving wife;
O’erjoy'd was he to find
She had a frugal mind.
But, yet, was not allow'd
that she was proud. So three doors off the chaise was stay'd,
Where they did all get in ; Six precious souls-and all agog
To dash through thick and thin.
Were never folk so glad ;-
As if Cheapside were mad.
Seiz'd fast the flowing mane, And
up he got, in haste to ride,–
His journey to begin,
Three customers come in.
Although it griev'd him sore,
Would trouble him much more. 'Twas long before the customers
Were suited to their mind, When Betty, screaming, came down stairs,
“ The wine is left behind !". “Good lack !" quoth he—“yet bring it me,
My leathern belt likewise, 5 In which I bear my trusty sword
" When I do exercise."
Now Mistress Gilpin, careful soul !
Had two stone bottles found, To hold the liquor that she lov’d,
And keep it safe and sound. Each bottle had a curling ear,
Through which the belt he drew, And hung a bottle on each side,
To make his balance true;
Then over all, that he might be
Equipp'd from top to toe,
He manfully did throw.
Upon his nimble steed,
With caution and good heed.
Beneath his well-shod feet, The snorting beast began to trot
Which galld him in his seat. “ So, fair and softly!" John he cried
But John he cried in vain ;
In spite of curb and rein.
Who cannot sit upright,
And, eke, with all his might.
Had handled been before,
Did wonder more and more.
Away went hat and wig ;
Of running such a rig.