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such velocity, that, after many a fruitless attempt to recover it, I am obliged to sit down bare headed, to the great diversion of the spectators. The last time I found myself in these distressful circumstances, the eldest girl, a sprightly mischievous jade, stepped briskly up to me, and promised to restore my wig, if I would play her a tune on a small flute she held in her hand. I innocently applied it to my lips, and blowing lustily into it, to my inconceivable surprise, was immediately choked and blinded with a cloud of soot, that issued from every hole in the instrument. The younger part of the company declared I had not executed the conditions, and refused to surrender my wig; but the father, who has a rough kind of facetiousness about him, insisted on its being delivered up, and protested that he never knew the black joke better performed in his life.
I am naturally a quiet inoffensive animal, and not easily ruffled, yet I shall never submit to these indignities with patience, till I am satisfied I deserve them. Even the old maids of my acquaintance, who, one would think, might have a fellow feeling for a brother in distress, conspire with their nieces to harrass and torment me: and it is not many nights since Miss Diana Grizzle utterly spoiled the only superfine suit I have in the world, by pinning the skirts of it together with a red hot poker. I own my resentment of this injury was so strong, that I determined to punish it by kissing the offender, which in cool blood I should never have attempted. The satisfaction, however, which I obtained by this imprudent revenge, was much like what a man of honour feels on finding himself run through the body by the scoundrel who has offended him. My upper lip was transfixed with a large corking pin, which in the scuffle she had conveyed into her mouth; and I doubt not that I shall carry the memorem labris notam (the mark of this Judas kiss) from an old maid to the grave with me.
These misfortunes, or others of the same kind, I encounter daily: but at these seasons of the year, which give a sanction to this kind of practical wit, and when every man thinks he has a right to entertain himself at his friend's expense, I live in hourly apprehensions of more mortifying adventures. No miserable dunghill cock, devoted a victim to the wanton cruelty of the mob, would be more terrified at the approach of a Shrove Tuesday, were he endued with human reason and forecast, than I am at the approach of a merry Christmas or the first of April. No longer ago than last Thursday, which was the latter of these festivals, I was pestered with mortifying presents from the ladies; obliged to pay the carriage of half a dozen oyster barrels stuffed with brickbats, and ten packets by the post containing nothing but old newspapers. But what vexed me most was the being sent fifty miles out of town, on that day, by a counterfeit express from a dying relation.
I could not help reflecting, with a sigh, on the resemblance between the imaginary grievance of poor Tom, in the tragedy of Lear, and those which I really experience. I, like him, was led through ford and whirlpool, over bog and quagmire; and though knives were not laid under my pillow, minced horse hair was strewed upon my sheets: like him, I was made to ride on a hardtrotting horse through the most dangerous ways, and found at the end of my journey that I had only been coursing my own shadow.
As much a suiferer as I am by the behaviour of the women in general, I must not forget to remark, that the pertness and sauciness of an old maid is particularly offensive to me. I cannot help thinking that the virginity of these ancient misses is at least as ridiculous as my own celibacy. If I am to be condemned for having never made an offer, they are as much to blame for having never accepted one. If I am to be derided for having never married, who never attempted to make a conquest, they are more properly the objects of derision who are still unmarried, after having made so many. Numberless are the proposals they have rejected, according to their own account: and they are eternally boasting of the havoc they have formerly made among the knights, baronets, and squires, at Bath, Tunbridge, and Epsom ; while a tattered madrigal, perhaps a snip of hair, or the portrait of a cherry cheeked gentleman in a milk-white periwig, are the only remaining proofs of those beauties, which are now withered, like the short-lived rose, and have only left the virgin thorn remaining.
Believe me, Mr. Town, I am almost afraid to trust you with the publication of this epistle: the ladies, whom I last mentioned, will be so exasperated on reading it, that I must expect no quarter at their hands for the future, since they are generally as little inclined to forgiveness in their old age, as they were to pity and compassion in their youth. One expedient, however, is left me, which, if put in execution, will effectually screen me from their resentment.
I shall be happy, therefore, if by your means I may be permitted to inform the ladies, that as fusty an animal as they think me, it is not impossible, by a little gentler treatment than I have hitherto met with, I may be humanized into a husband. As an inducement to them to relieve me from my present uneasy circumstances, you may assure them, that I am rendered so exceedingly tractable by the very severe discipline I have undergone, that they may mould and fashion me to their minds with ease; and, consequently, that by marrying me a woman will save herself all that trouble which a wife of any spirit is obliged to take with an unruly husband, who is absurd enough to expect from her a strict performance of the marriage vow, even in the very minute article of obedience: that, so far from contradicting a lady, I shall be mighty well satisfied if she contents herself with contradicting me: that, if I happen at any time inadvertently to thwart her inclinations, I shall think myself rightly served if she boxes my ears, spits in my face, or treads upon my corns: that, if I approach her lips when she is not in a kissing humour, I shall expect she will bite me by the nose; or, if I take her by the hand at an improper season, that she will instantly begin to pinch, scratch, and claw, and apply her fingers to those purposes which they were certainly intended by nature to
fulfil. Add to these accomplishments, so requisite to make the married state happy, that I am not much turned of fifty, can tie on my cravat, fasten a button, or mend a hole in my stocking without any assistance. Cowper.
AN AGREEABLE VISITOR.
Early in the spring succeeding the birth of her second child, Mrs. Burton received a letter announcing the arrival in England of Mr. Frumpton Danvers, her mother's uncle, whose days had been spent in various parts of the world, collecting and accumulating wealth; and who had returned to his native land, so late in life as to have outlived all his friends and connexions, except this daughter of his niece. His property was immense—almost incalculably so—in the West Indies, in the East Indies, in England, in Ireland, and in Scotland, he had estates and riches, and few people ventured to guess, to use the delicate and commonly accepted term, what he would cut up for. One thing was quite certain; besides all the doubtful property he possessed, three hundred thousand pounds stood in his name in the three per cents.; and the difficulties he had for years encountered in amassing this fortune were now surpassed by the still greater one of making up his mind to whom he should bequeath it.
The old gentleman was a mannerist and an egotist—self-opiniated, obstinate, positive, and eternally differing with every body round him—
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