« AnteriorContinua »
was ignorant of our being so near. He therefore sat down by my youngest daughter, and, sportsman like, offered her what he had killed that morning. She was going to refuse, but a private look from her mother soon induced her to correct the mistake, and accept his present, though with some reluctance. My wife, as usual, discovered her pride in a whisper, observing, that Sophy had made a conquest of the chaplain, as well as her sister had of the Squire. I suspected, however, with more probability, that her affections were placed upon a different object. The chaplain's errand was to inform us, that Mr Thornhill had provided music and refreshments, and intended that night giving the young ladies a ball by moonlight, on the grass plot before our door.
“ Nor can I deny," continued he, “ but I have an interest in being first to deliver this message, as I expect for my reward to be honoured with Miss Sophia's hand as a partner.” To this my girl replied, that she should have no objection, if she could do it with honour ; " But here,” continued she, “is a gentleman," looking at Mr Burchell, “ who has been my companion in the task for the day, and it is fit he should share in its amusements.” Mr Burchell returned her a compliment for her intentions, but resigned her up to the chaplain; adding, that he was to go that night five miles, being invited to a harvest supper. His refusal appeared to me a little extraordinary ; nor could I conceive how so sensible a girl as my youngest, could thus prefer a man of broken fortunes to one whose expectations were much greater. But as men are most capable of distinguishing merit in women, so the ladies often form the truest judgments
The two sexes seem placed as spies upon each other, and are furnished with different abilities, adapted for mutual inspectione
TWO LADIES OF GREAT DISTINCTION INTRODUCED. SUPERIOR
FINERY EVER SEEMS TO CONFER SUPERIOR BREEDING.
MR BURCHELL had scarcely taken leave, and Sophia consented to dance with the chaplain, when my little ones came running out to tell us, that the Squire was come with a crowd of company. Upon our return, we found our landlord, with a couple of under gentlemen and two young ladies richly dressed, whom he introduced as women of very great distinction and fashion from town. We happened not to have chairs enough for the whole company; but Mr Thornhill immediately proposed, that every gentleman should sit in a lady's lap. This I positively objected to, notwithstanding a look of disapprobation from my wife. Moses was therefore despatched to borrow a couple of chairs ; and as we were in want of ladies to make up a set at country dances, the two gentlemen went with him in. quest of a couple of partners. Chairs and partners were soon provided. The gentlemen returned with my neighbour Flamborough’s rosy daughters, faunting with red top-knots ; but an unlucky circumstance was not adverted to,-though the Miss Flamboroughs were reckoned the very best dancers in the parish, and understood the jig and roundabout to perfection, yet they were totally unacquainted with country dances. This at first discomposed us : however, after a little shoving and dragging, they at last went merrily
Our music consisted of two fiddles, with a pipe and tabor. The moon shone bright, Mr Thornhill and my eldest daughter led up the ball, to the great delight of the spectators; for the neighbours, hearing what was going forward, came flocking about us. My girl moved with so much grace and vivacity, that my wife could not avoid discovering the pride of her heart, by assuring me, that though the little chit did it so cleverly, all the steps were stolen from herself. The ladies of the town strove hard to be equally easy, but without success. They swam, sprawled, languished, and frisked ; but all would not do : the gazers indeed owned that it was fine ; but neighbour Flamborough observed, that Miss Livy's feet seemed as pat to the music as its echo. After the dance had continued about an hour, the two ladies, who were apprehensive of catching cold, moved to break up the ball. One of them, I thought, expressed her sentiments upon this occasion in a very coarse manner, when she observed, that, “ by the living jingo, she was all of a muck of sweat.” Upon our return to the house, we found a very elegant cold supper, which Mr Thornhill had ordered to be brought with him. The conversation at this time was more reserved than before. The two ladies threw my girls quite into the shade ; forthey would talk of nothing but high life, and high-lived company; with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses. 'Tis true they once or twice mortified us sensibly by slipping out an oath ; but that appeared to me as the surest symptom of their distinction, (though I am since informed that swearing is perfectly unfashionable.) Their finery, however, threw a veil over any grossness in their conversation. My daughters seemed to regard their superior accomplishments with envy; and what appeared amiss, was ascribed to tip-top quality breeding. But the condescension of the ladies was stiil superior to their other accomplishments. One of them observed, that had Miss Olivia seen a little more of the world, it would greatly improve her ; to which the other added, that a single winter in town would make her little Sophia quite another thing. My wife warmly assented to both; adding, that there was nothing she more ardently wished than to give her girls a single winter's polishing. To this I could not help replying, that their breeding was already superior to their fortune ; and that greater refinement would only serve to make their poverty ridiculous, and give them a taste for pleasures they had no right to possess. “ And what pleasures,” cried Mr Thornhill, “ do they not deserve to possess, who have so much in their power to bestow ? As for my part,” continued he, “my fortune is pretty large ; love, liberty, and pleasure are my maxims but curse me, if a settlement of half my estate could give my charming Olivia pleasure, it should be hers ; and the only favour I would ask in return would be to add myself to the benefit.” I was not such a stranger to the world as to be ignorant that this was the fashionable cant to disguise the insolence of the basest proposal; but I made an effort to suppress my resentment. Sir," cried I, “ the family which you now condescend to favour with your company, has. been bred with as nice a sense of honour as you. Any attempts to injure that may be attended with very dangerous consequences. Honour, sir, is our only possession at present, and of that last treasure we must be particularly careful.” I was soon sorry for the warmth with which I had spoken this, when the young gentleman, grasping my hand, swore he commended my spirit, though he disapproved my suspicions. " As to your present hint,' continued he, “ į protest nothing was farther from my
heart than such a thought. No, by all that's tempting ! the virtue that will stand a regular siege was never to my taste; for all my amours are carried by a coup-de-main.”.
The two ladies, who affected to be ignorant of the rest, seemed highly displeased with this last stroke of freedom, and began a very discreet and serious dialogue upon virtue : in this my wife, the chaplain, and I, soon joined; and the Squire himself was at last brought to confess a sense of sorrow for his former excesses. We talked of the pleasures of temperance, and of the sunshine in the mind unpolluted with guilt. I was so well pleased, that my little ones were kept up beyond the usual time to be edified by so much good conversation. Mr Thornhill even went beyond me, and demanded if I had any objection to giving prayers. I joyfully embraced the proposal ; and in this manner the night was passed in a most comfortable way, till at last the company began to think of returning. The ladies seemed very unwilling to part with my daughters, for whom they had conceived a particular affection, and joined in a request to have the pleasure of their company home. The Squire seconded the proposal, and my wife added her entreaties ; the girls too, looked upon me as if they wished to go. In this perplexity, I made two or three excuses, which my daughters as readily removed ; so that at last I was obliged to give a peremptory refusal, for which we had nothing but sullen looks and short answers the whole day ensuing.
THE FAMILY ENDEAVOUR TO COPE WITH THEIR BETTERS. THE
MISERIES OF THE POOR, WHEN THEY ATTEMPT TO APPEAR ABOVE THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES.
I now began to find, that all my long and painful lectures upon temperance, simplicity, and contentment, were entirely disregarded. The distinctions lately paid us by our betters awakened that pride which I had laid asleep, but not removed. Our windows, again, as formerly, were filled with washes for the neck and face. The sun was dreaded as an enemy to the skin without doors, and the fire as a spoiler of the complexion within. My wife observed that rising too early would hurt her daughters' eyes, that working after dinner
would redden their noses ; and she convinced me that the hands never looked so white as when they did nothing. Instead therefore of finishing George's shirts, we now had them new-modelling their old gauzes, or flourishing upon catgut. The poor Miss Flamboroughs, their former gay companions, were cast off as mean acquaintance, and the whole conversation ran upon high life, and high-lived company, with pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses.
But we could have borne all this, had not a fortune-telling gipsy come to raise us into perfect sublimity. The tawny sibyl no sooner appeared, than my girls came running to me for a shilling a-piece to cross her hand with silver. To say the truth, I was tired of being always wise, and could not help gratifying their request, because I loved to see them happy. I gave each of them a shilling ; though for the honour of the family it must be observed, that they never went without money themselves, as my wife always let them have a guinea each, to keep in their pockets, but with strict injunctions never to change it. After they had been closeted up with the fortune-teller for some time, I knew by their looks, upon their returning, that they had been promised something great. “Well, my girls, how have you sped ? Tell me, Livy, has the fortune-teller given thee a pennyworth ?” .“ I protest, papa,” says the girl, “ I believe she deals with somebody that's not right; for she positively declared, that I am to be married to a Squire in less than a twelvemonth!” " Well, now, Sophy, my child,” said I, " and what sort of a husband are you to have ?”- —“ Sir," replied she, “ I am to have a Lord soon after my sister has married the Squire.” .“ How," cried I, “ is that all you are to have for your two shillings ? Only a Lord and a Squire for two shillings! You fools, I could have promised you a Prince and a Nabob for half the money."
This curiosity of theirs, however, was attended with very serious effects : we now began to think ourselves designed by the stars to something exalted, and already anticipated our future grandeur.
It has been a thousand times observed, and I must observe it once more, that the hours we pass with happy prospects in view, are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition. In the first case, we cook the dish to our own appetite ; in the latter, Nature cooks it for us. It is impossible to repeat