페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

loved to see them happy. I gave each of them a shilling; though, for

I the honour of the family, it must be observed, that they never went without money themselves, as my wife always generously 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 the train of agreeable reveries we called up for our entertainment. We looked upon our fortunes as once more rising ; and as the whole parish asserted that the Squire was in love with my daughter, she was actually so with him ; for they persuaded her into the passion. In this agreeable interval, my wife had the most lucky dreams in the world, which she took care to tell us every morning with great solemnity and exactness. It was one night a coffin and cross-bones, the sign of an approaching wedding ; at another time she imagined her daughters' pockets filled with farthings, a certain sign that they would shortly be stuffed with gold. The girls themselves had their omens : they felt strange kisses on their lips ; they saw rings in the candle ; purses bounced from the fire; and true-love-knots lurked in the bottom of every tea-cup.

Towards the end of the week, we received a card from the town ladies; in which, with their compliments, they hoped to see all our family at

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]

church the Sunday following. All Saturday morning I could perceive, in consequence of this, my wife and daughters in close conference together, and now and then glancing at me with looks that betrayed a latent plot. To be sincere, I had strong suspicions that some absurd proposal was preparing for appearing with splendour the next day. In the evening, they began their operations in a very regular manner, and my wife undertook to conduct the siege. After tea, when I seemed in spirits, she began thus : " I fancy, Charles, my dear, we shall have a great deal of good company at our church to-morrow.” “Perhaps we may, my dear,” returned I ; “ though you need be under no uneasiness about that; you shall have a sermon, whether there be or not.” " That is what I expect,” returned she ; “ but I think, my dear, we ought to appear there as decently as possible, for who knows what may happen? " Your precautions,” replied I, “are highly commendable. A decent behaviour and appearance at church is what charms me. We should be devout and humble, cheerful and serene." “ Yes," cried she,

” " I know that; but I mean we should go there in as proper a manner as possible; not altogether like the scrubs about us,” “You are quite right, my dear,” returned I, “and I was going to make the very same proposal. The proper manner of going is, to go there as early as possible, to have time for meditation before the service begins."

“ Phoo, Charles," interrupted she, “all that is very true ; but not what I would bc at.

I mean, we should go there genteelly. You know the church is two miles off, and I protest I don't like to see my daughters trudging up to their pew all blowzed and red with walking, and looking for all the world as if they had been winners at a smock-race, dear, my proposal is this—there are our two plough horses, the colt that has been in our family these nine years, and his companion Blackberry, that has scarcely done an earthly thing for this month past : they are both grown fat and lazy : why should not they do something as well as we? And let ine tell you, when Moses has trimmed them a little, they will cut a very tolerable figure."

To this proposal I objected, that walking would be twenty times more genteel than such a paltry conveyance, as Blackberry was wallcyed, and the colt wanted a tail ; that they had never been broke to the rein, but had a hundred vicious tricks; and that we had but one saddle and pillion in the whole house. All these objections, however, were overruled ; so that I was obliged to comply. The next morning I perceived them not a little busy in collecting such materials as might

Now, my

a

be necessary for the expedition ; but, as I found it would be a business

a of time, I walked on to the church before, and they promised speedily to follow. I waited near an hour in the reading-desk for their arrival; but not finding them come as expected, I was obliged to begin, and went through the service, not without some uneasiness at finding them absent. This was increased when all was finished, and no appearance of the family. I therefore walked back by the horse-way

I which was five miles round, though the foot-way was but two, and when got about half way home, perceived the procession marching slowly forward towards the church—my son, my wife, and the two little ones, exalted on one horse, and my two daughters upon the other. I demanded the cause of their delay; but I soon found by their looks they had met with a thousand misfortunes on the road. The horses had at first refused to move from the door, till Mr. Burchell was kind enough to beat them forward for about two hundred yards with his cudgel. Next the straps of my wife's pillion broke down, and they were obliged to stop to repair them before they could proceed. After that, one of the horses took it into his head to stand still, and neither blows nor entreaties could prevail with him to proceed. He was just recovering from this dismal situation when I found them ; but perceiving everything safe, I own their present mortification did not much displease me, as it would give me many opportunities of future triumph, and teach my daughters more humility.

CHAPTER XI.

THE FAMILY STILL RESOLVE TO HOLD UP THEIR HEADS.

[graphic]

ICHAELMAS-EVE happening on the next day, we were invited to burn nuts and play tricks at neighbour Flamborough's. Our late mortifications had humbled us a little, or it is probable we might have rejected such an invitation with contempt : how

ever, we suffered ourselves to be happy. Our honest

neighbour's goose and dumplings were fine; and the lamb's wool, even in the opinion of my wife, who was a connoisseur, was excellent. It is true, his manner of telling stories was not quite so well.

They were very long, and very dull, and all about himself, and we had laughed at them ten times before : however, we were kind enough to laugh at them once more.

Mr. Burchell, who was of the party, was always fond of seeing some innocent amusement going forward, and set the boys and girls to blind man's buff. My wife, too, was persuaded to join in the diversion, and it gave me pleasure to think she was not yet too old. In the meantime, my neighbour and I looked on, laughed at every feat, and praised our own dexterity when we were young. Hot cockles succeeded next, questions and commands followed that, and, last of all, they sate down to hunt the slipper. As every person may not be acquainted with this primæval pastime, it may be necessary to observe, that the company at this play plant themselves in a ring upon the ground, all except one who stands in the middle, whose business it is to catch a shoe, which the company shove about under their hạms from one to another, something like a weaver's shuttle. As it is impossible, in this case, for the lady who is up to face all the company at once, the great beauty of the play lies in hitting her a thump with the heel of the shoe on that side least capable of making a defence. It was in this manner that my eldest daughter was hemmed in, and thumped about, all blowzed, in spirits, and bawling for fair play, with a voice that might deafen a ballad-singer, when, confusion on confusion, who should enter the room but our two great acquaintances from town, Lady Blarney and Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs! Description would but beggar, therefore it is unnecessary to describe this new mortification. Death! to be seen by ladies of such high breeding in such vulgar attitudes! Nothing better could ensue from such a vulgar play of Mr. Flamborough's proposing. We seemed stuck to the ground for some time, as if actually petrified with amazement.

The two ladies had been at our house to see us, and, finding us from home, came after us hither, as they were uneasy to know what accident could have kept us from church the day before. Olivia undertook to be our prolocutor, and delivered the whole in a summary way, only saying—“We were thrown from our horses.” At which account the ladies were greatly concerned; but being told the family received no hurt, they were extremely glad ; but being informed that we were almost killed with fright, they were vastly sorry ; but hearing that we had a very good night, they were extremely glad again. Nothing could exceed their complaisance to my daughters; their professions

« 이전계속 »