« ZurückWeiter »
"Izzy, dear,' said Johnson, 'will you be so kind as bring down the salver which was presented to me by my good friends at Combermeath ?'
Miss Johnson quickly appeared with a large, massive, and richly ornamented piece of plate, which her brother desired her to put into my hands; directing my attention at the same time to an inscription in the centre. This inscription I read, and found it to be a flattering testimonial, from Mr Johnson's creditors, to the excellence of his character, and expressing their deep sense of his rare integrity, as exemplified in the circumstance of his having paid in full, and with interest, the several sums he owed them, after he had been legally discharged of the same.
Dear reader, the man of whom I have been speakingthe man who was so slandered and traduced when he first came amongst us, who was called everything that was bad — who was shunned and despised - is now first magistrate of H, and has long been esteemed, as he indeed is, one of the worthiest men in the county.
GENERAL INVITATIONS. "Pray do call in an easy way some evening, you and Mrs Balderstone : we are sure to be at home, and shall be most happy to see you. Such an invitation one is apt to get from friends, who, equally resolved against the formality and the expense of a particular entertainment on your account, hope to avoid both evils by making your visit a matter of accident. If you be a man of some experience, you will know that all such attempts to make bread and cheese do that which is more properly the business of a pair of chickens, end in disappointment; and you will, therefore, take care to wait till the general invitation becomes a particular one. But there are inexperienced people in the world who think everything is as it seems, and are apt to be greatly deceived regarding this accidental mode
of visiting. For the sake of these last, I shall relate the following adventure :
I had been remarkably busy one summer, and, consequently, obliged to refuse all kinds of invitations, general and particular. The kind wishes of my friends had accumulated upon me somewhat after the manner of the tunes frozen up in Baron Munchausen's French-horn; and it seemed as if a whole month would have been necessary to thaw out and discharge the whole of these obligations. A beginning, however, is always something; and, accordingly, one rather splashy evening in November, I can't tell how it was, but a desire came simultaneously over myself and Mrs Balderstone—it seemed to be by sympathy -of stepping out to see Mr and Mrs Brown, a married pair, who had been considerably more pressing in their general invitations than any other of our friends. We both knew that there was a cold duck in the house, besides a segment of cheese, understood to be more than excellent. But so it was that we had taken a visiting humour, and forth we must go. Five minutes saw us leaving our comfortable home, my wife carrying a cap pinned under her cloak, while to my pocket was consigned her umbrageous comb. As we paced along, we speculated only on the pleasure which we should give to our kind friends by thus at last paying them a visit, when perhaps all hope of our ever doing so was dead within them. Nor was it possible altogether to omit reflecting, like the dog invited by his friend to sup, upon the entertainment which lay before us; for certainly, on such an occasion, the fatted calf could hardly expect to be spared.
Full of the satisfaction which we were to give and receive, we had nearly entered the house before we thought it necessary to inquire if anybody was at home. The servant-girl, surprised by the confidence of our entrée, evidently forgot her duty, and acknowledged, when she should have denied, the presence of her master and mistress in the house. We were shewn into a diningroom, clean, cold, and stately as an alabaster cave, and which had the appearance of being but rarely lighted by the blaze of hospitality. My first impulse was to relieve my pocket, before sitting down, of the comb, which I thought was now about being put to its proper use; but the chill of the room stayed my hand. I observed, at the same time, that my wife, like the man under the influence of Æolus in the fable, manifested no symptom of parting with her cloak. Ere we could communicate our mutual sensations of incipient disappointment, Mrs Brown entered with a flurried, surprised air, and made a prodigious effort to give us welcome. But, alas ! poor Mr Brown-he had been seized in the afternoon with a strange vertigo and sickness, and was now endeavouring, by the advice of Dr Boak, to get some repose. It will be such a disappointment to him, when he learns that you were here, for he would have been so happy to see you. We must just entertain the hope, however, to see you some other night.' Although the primary idea in our minds at this moment was the utter hopelessness of supper in this quarter-we betrayed, of course, no feeling but sympathy in the illness of our unfortunate friend, and a regret for having called at so inauspicious a moment. Had any unconcerned person witnessed our protestations, he could have formed no suspicion that we ever contemplated supper, or were now in the least disappointed. We felt anxious about nothing but to relieve Mrs Brown, as soon as possible, of the inconvenience of our visit, more especially as the chill of the room was now piercing us to the bone. We therefore retired, under a shower of mutual compliments, and condolences, and hopes,' and 'sorries,' and have the pleasures;' the door at last closing after us with a noise which seemed to say : 'How very glad I am to get quit of you !
When we got to the street, we certainly did not feel quite so mortified as the dog already alluded to, seeing that we had not, like him, been tossed over the window. But still the reverse of prospect was so very bitter, that for some time we could hardly believe that the adventure was real. By this time, we had expected to be seated snug at supper, side by side with two friends, who, we anticipated, would almost expire with pleasure at seeing
But here, on the contrary, we were turned out upon the cold, inhospitable street, without a friend's face to cheer us. We still recollected that the cold duck remained as a fortress to fall back upon; but being now fairly agog in the adventure, the idea of returning home with our object unaccomplished, was not to be thought of. Supper we must have in some other house than our own, let it cost what it may. Well,' said Mrs Balderstone, 'there are the Jacksons! They live not far from this —suppose we drop in upon them? I'm sure we have had enough of invitations to their house. The very last time I met Mrs Jackson on the street, she told me she was never going to ask us again—we had refused so long-she was going, she said, just to let us come if we liked, and when we liked! Off we went, therefore, to try the Jacksons.
On applying at the door of this house, it flew open, as it were by enchantment, and the servant-girl, so far from hesitating, like the other, seemed to expect no question to be asked on entrée. We moved into the lobby, and inquired if Mr and Mrs Jackson were at home, which was answered by the girl with a irprised affirmative. We now perceived, froin the pile of hats and cloaks in the lobby, as well as a humming noise from one of the rooms, that the Jacksons had a large company, and that we were understood by the servant to be part of it. The Jacksons, thought we (I know my wife thought so, although I never asked), give some people particular invitations. Our object was now to make an honourable retreat; for, although my dress was not entirely a walking one, and my wife's cap was brought with the prospect of making an appearance of dress, we were by no means fit to match with those who had dressed on purpose for the party, even although we should be asked to join them. Just at this moment, Mrs Jackson happened to cross the lobby, on hospitable thoughts intent, and, to her own misfortune, caught a glimpse of us. 'Oh, Mrs Balderstone, how do you do? How are you, Mr Balderstone ? I'm so delighted that you have come. We have just a few friends with us, and it will be so delightful if you will join them,
Come into this room, and take off your bonnet; and you, Mr Balderstone, just you be so good as step up to the drawing-room ; you'll find numbers there that you know. And Mr Jackson will be so happy to see you,' &c. All this, however, would not do. Mrs Balderstone and I not only felt a little hurt at the want of specialty in our invitations to this house, but could not endure the idea of mingling in a crowd better dressed and more regularly invited than ourselves. We therefore begged Mrs Jackson to excuse us for this night. We had just called in passing, and, indeed, we never attended ceremonious parties at any time. We would see her some other evening, when she was less engaged—that is to say, we should take care to trouble her no more. And so off we came, with complimentary language upon our tongues, but by no means conformable feelings in our hearts.
Again upon the street - once again. What was to be done now? Why,' said Mrs Balderstone, there is excellent old Mrs Smiles, who lives in the next street. I have not seen her or the Misses Smiles for six months; but the last time they were so pressing for us to return their visit (you remember they drank tea with us in spring ?) that I think we cannot do better than pop in
Mrs Smiles, a respectable widow, lived with her five daughters in a third floor in Street. Thither we proceeded, with a hope, undiminished by the two preceding disappointments, that here at length we should meet friends ready to receive us in the manner we had been led to expect. Our knock at Mrs Smiles' hospitable portal produced a strange rushing noise within ; and when the servant appeared, I observed, the dim vista of the passage, one or two slip-slop figures darting across out of one door into another, and others, again, crossing in the opposite direction; and then there was heard a low, anxious whispering, while a single dishevelled head peeped out from one of the doors, and then the head was withdrawn, and all was still. We were introduced into a room which