Chapter 11 The Family Still Resolve to Hold Up Their Heads.
MICHAELMAS-EVE, happening on the next day, we were invited to burn nuts an_lay tricks at neighbor Flamborough's. Our late mortifications had humbled u_ little, or it is probable we might have rejected such an invitation wit_ontempt; however, we suffered ourselves to be happy. Our honest neighbor'_oose and dumplings were fine, and the lamb's-wool, even in the opinion of m_ife, who was a connoisseur, was excellent. It is true his manner of tellin_tories was not quite so well; they were very long and very dull, and al_bout himself, and we had laughed at them ten times before; however, we wer_ind enough to laugh at them once more.
Mr. Burchell, who was of the party, was always fond of seeing some innocen_musement going forward, and set the boys and girls to blind-man's-buff. M_ife, too, was persuaded to join in the diversion, and it gave me pleasure t_hink she was not yet too old. In the meantime my neighbor and I looked on,
laughed at every feat, and praised our own dexterity when we were young. Ho_ockles succeeded next, questions and commands followed that, and, last o_ll, they sat down to hunt the slipper. As every person may not be acquainte_ith this primeval pastime, it may be necessary to observe that the company a_his play planted themselves in a ring upon the ground, all except one, wh_tands in the middle, whose business it is to catch a shoe which the compan_hove about under their hams from one to another, something like a weaver'_huttle. As it is impossible in this case for the lady who is up to face al_he company at once, the great beauty of the play lies in hitting her a thum_ith the heel of the shoe on that side least capable of making a defence. I_as 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 migh_eafen a ballad-singer, when, confusion on confusion, who should enter th_oom but our two great acquaintances from town, Lady Blarney and Miss Carolin_ilhelmina Amelia Skeggs! Description would but beggar, therefore it i_nnecessary to describe this new mortification. Death! To be seen by ladies o_uch high breeding in such vulgar attitudes! Nothing better could ensue fro_uch a vulgar play of Mr. Flamborough's proposing. We seemed stuck to th_round for some time, as if actually petrified with amazement.
The two ladies had been at our house to see us, and finding us f rom home,
came after us hither, as they were uneasy to know what accident could hav_ept us from the church the day before. Olivia undertook to be our prolocutor,
and delivered the whole in a summary way, only saying: "We were thrown fro_ur horses." At which account the ladies were greatly concerned; but bein_old the family received no hurt, they were extremely glad; but being informe_hat we were almost killed by the fright, they were vastly sorry; but hearin_hat we had a very good night, they were extremely glad again. Nothing coul_xceed their complaisance to my daughters; their professions the last evenin_ere warm, but now they were ardent. They protested a desire of having a mor_asting acquaintance; Lady Blarney was particularly attached to Olivia; Mis_arolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs (I love to give the whole name) took _reater fancy to her sister. They supported the conversation betwee_hemselves, while my daughters sat silent, admiring their exalted breeding.
But as every reader, however beggarly himself, is fond of high-live_ialogues, with anecdotes of Lords, Ladies, and Knights of the Garter, I mus_eg leave to give him the concluding part of the present conversation.
"All that I know of the matter," cried Miss Skeggs, "is this, that it may b_rue, or it may not be true; but this I can assure your Ladyship, that th_hole rout was in amaze; his Lordship turned all manner of colors, my Lad_ell into a swoon, but Sir Tomkyn, drawing his sword, swore he was hers to th_ast drop of his blood."
"Well," replied our Peeress, "this I can say, that the Duchess never told me _yllable of the matter, and I believe her Grace would keep nothing a secre_rom me. This you may depend upon as fact, that the next morning my Lord Duk_ried out three times to his valetde-chambre: 'Jernigan, Jernigan, Jernigan,
bring me my garters!' "
But previously I should have mentioned the very impolite behavior of Mr.
Burchell, who, during this discourse, sat with his face turned to the fire,
and at the conclusion of every sentence would cry out "Fudge!"-an expressio_hich displeased us all, and in some measure damped the rising spirit of th_onversation.
"Besides, my dear Skeggs," continued our Peeress, "there is nothing of this i_he copy of verses that Doctor Burdock made upon the occasion." Fudge!
"I am surprised at that," cried Miss Skeggs; "for he seldom leaves anythin_ut, as he writes only for his own amusement. But can your Ladyship favor m_ith a sight of them?" Fudge!
"My dear creature," replied our Peeress, "do you think I carry such thing_bout me? Though they are very fine to be sure, and I think myself somethin_f a judge; at least, I know what pleases myself. Indeed, I was ever a_dmirer of all Doctor Burdock's little pieces; for except what he does, an_ur dear Countess at Hanover Square, there's nothing comes out but the mos_owest stuff in nature; not a bit of high life among them." Fudge!
"Your Ladyship should except," says t'other, "your own things in the Lady'_agazine. I hope you'll say there's nothing low-lived there? But I suppose w_re to have no more from that quarter?" Fudge!
"Why, my dear," says the lady, "you know my reader and companion has left m_o be married to Captain Roach, and as my poor eyes won't suffer me to writ_yself, I have been for some time looking out for another. A proper person i_o easy matter to find, and to be sure thirty pounds a year is a small stipen_or a well-bred girt of character, that can read, write, and behave i_ompany; as for the chits about town, there is no bearing them about one."
"That I know," cried Miss Skeggs, "by experience. For of the three companion_ had this last half-year, one of them ref used to do plain-work an hour i_he day, another thought twenty-five guineas a year too small a salary, and _as obliged to send away the third, because I suspected an intrigue with th_haplain. Virtue, my dear Lady Blarney, virtue is worth any price; but wher_s that to be found?" Fudge!
My wife had been for a long time all attention to this discourse; but wa_articularly struck with the latter part of it. Thirty pounds and twenty-fiv_uineas a year made fifty-six pounds five shilling English money, all whic_as in a manner going a-begging, and might easily be secured in the family.
She for a moment studied my looks f or approbation; and, to own a truth, I wa_f opinion that two such places would fit our two daughters exactly. Besides,
if the 'Squire had any real affection for my eldest daughter, this would b_he way to make her every way qualified for her fortune. My wife, therefore,
was resolved that we should not be deprived of such advantages for want o_ssurance, and undertook to harangue for the family. "I hope," cried she,
"your Ladyships will pardon my present presumption. It is true, we have n_ight to pretend to such favors; but yet it is natural for me to wish puttin_y children forward in the world. And I will be bold to say my two girls hav_ad a pretty good education and capacity; at least the country can't sho_etter. They can read, write, and cast accounts; they understand their needle,
broad-stitch, cross and change, and all manner of plain-work; they can pink,
point, and frill; and know something of music; they can do up small-clothes,
work upon catgut; my eldest can cut paper, and my youngest has a very prett_anner of telling fortunes upon the cards." Fudge!
When she had delivered this pretty piece of eloquence, the two ladies looke_t each other a few minutes in silence, with an air of doubt and importance.
At last, Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs condescended to observe tha_he young ladies, from the opinion she could form of them from so slight a_cquaintance, seemed very fit for such employments. "But a thing of this kind,
madam," cried she, addressing my spouse, "requires a thorough examination int_haracters, and a more perfect knowledge of each other. Not, madam," continue_he, "that I in the least suspect the young ladies' virtue, prudence, an_iscretion; but there is a form in these things, madam, there is a form."
My wife approved her suspicions very much, observing that she was very apt t_e suspicious herself; but referred her to all the neighbors for a character;
but this our Peeress declined as unnecessary, alleging that her cousi_hornhill's recommendation would be sufficient, and upon this we rested ou_etition.