« PreviousContinue »
PART FIRST. V OU must know that in my person I am tall and thin, with
L a fair complexion,' and light Haxen hair ; but of such extreme sensibility to shame, that, on the smallest subject of confusion, my blood all rushes into my cheeks. Having been sent to the university, the consciousness of my unhappy failing made me avoid society, and I became enamored of a college life. But from that peaceful retreat I was called by the deaths of my father and of a rich uncle, who left me a fortune of thirty thousand pounds.
2. I now purchased an estate in the country ; and my company was much courted by the surrounding families, especially by such as had marriageable daughters. Though I wished to accept their offered friendship, I was forced repeatedly to excuse myself, under the pretence of not being quite settled. Often, when I have ridden or walked with full intention of returning their visits, my heart has failed me as I approached their gates, and I have returned homeward, resolving to try again the next day. Determined, however, at length to conquer my timidity, I accepted of an invitation to dine with one, whose open, easy manner left me no room to doubt a cordial' welcome.
3. Sir Thomas Friendly, who lives about two miles distant, is a băronet' with an estate joining to that I purchased. He has two sons and five daughters, all grown up, and living, with their mother and a maiden sister of Sir Thomas's, at Friendly Hall. Conscious of my unpolished gait, I have, for some time past, taken private lessons of a professor, who teaches “grown gentlemen to dance ;" and though I at first found wondrous difficulty in the art he taught, my knowledge of the mathematics was of prodigious use in teaching me the equilibrium of my body, and CONFESSIONS OF A BASHFUL MAN.
i Complexion, (kom plek' shun), • Băr' on et, a title of honor bethe hue or color of the face or skin, tween knight and baron. particularly of the face.
•E 'qui lib' ri um, equality of ? U 'ni ver si ty, a school in which weight or force ; a just poise or balare taught all branches of learning. ance in respect to an object, so that
• Cor' di al, hearty; Warm; sincere. it remains firm
the due adjustment of the center of gravity' to the five positions."
4. Having acquired the art of walking without tottering, and learned to make a bow, I boldly ventured to obey the băronet's invitation to a family dinner, not doubting but my new acquiremènts would enable me to see the ladies with tolerable intrepidity ; but, alas! how vain are all the hopes of theory,' when unsupported by habitual practice !
5. As I approached the house, a dinner-bell alarmed my fears, lěst I had spoiled the dinner by want of punctuality. Impressed with this idē'a, I blushed the deepest crimson, as my name was repeatedly announced by the several livery servants, who ushered me into the library, hardly knowing what or whom I saw. At my first entrance, I summoned up all my fortitude, and made my new-learned bow to Lady Friendly ; but, unfortunately, in bringing back my left foot to the third position, I trod upon the gouty toe of poor Sir Thomas, who had followed close at my heels, to be the no'menclator* of the family.
6. The confusion this occasioned in me is hardly to be conceived, since none but bashful men can judge of my distress. The băronet's politeness, by degrees, dissipated' my concern; and I was astonished to see how far good-breeding could enable him to suppresso his feelings, and to appear with perfect ease after so painful an accident.
7. The cheerfulness of her ladyship, and the familiar chat of the young ladies, insensibly led me to throw off my reserve and sheepishness,' till, at length, I ventured to join the conversation, and even to start fresh subjects. The library being richly furnished with books in elegant bindings, I conceived Sir Thomas to be a man of literature, and ventured to give my opinion concerning the several editions of the Greek classics, in which the băronet's opinion exactly coincided with my own.
* Center of gravity, the point N o' men clā'tor, one who an. around which all parts balance. nounces names.
? Positions, (po zish' unz), the Dis'si pāted, scattered; removed. modes of standing directed by the Sup press', check; stifle; conceal. dancing-master, which are five in Shēep'ish ness, bashfulness. number.
8 Clăs' sics, authors or works of • Thē'ory, plan, general princi- the first rank, commonly referring ples; foundation of an opinion. to Greek and Latin.
8. To this subject I was led by observing an edition of Xenophon' in sixteen volumes, which (as I had never before heard of such a thing) greatly excited my curiosity, and I rose up to examine what it could be. Sir Thomas saw what I was about, and, as I supposed, willing to save me trouble, rose to take down the book ; which made me more eager to prevent him, and, hastily laying my hand on the first volume, I pulled it forcibly; but, lo! instead of books, a board, which, by leather and gilding, had been made to look like sixteen volumes, came tumbling down, and unluckily pitched upon a wedgwood” inkstand on the table under it.
9. In vain did Sir Thomas assure me there was no harm ; I saw the ink streaming from an inlaid table on the Turkey carpet, and, scarce knowing what I did, attempted to stop its prog'ress with my cambric handkerchief. In the height of this confusion, we were informed that dinner was served up ; and I, with joy, perceived that the bell, which at first had so alarmed my fears, was only the half-hour dinner-bell.
TN walking through the hall, and suite (swēt) of apartments,
I to the dining-room, I had time to collect my scattered senses, and was desired to take my seat betwixt Lady Friendly and her eldest daughter at the table. Since the fall of the wooden Xenophon, my face had been continually burning like a firebrand ; and I was just beginning to recover myself, and to feel comfortably cool, when an unlooked-for accident rekindled all my heat and blushes.
2. Having set my plate of soup too near the edge of the table in bowing to Miss Dinah, who politely complimented the pattern of my waistcoat, I tumbled the whole scalding contents into my lap. In spite of an immediate supply of napkins to wipe the surface of my clothes, my black silk dress was not stout enough
1 Xenophon, (zen' o fon), a cele- ? Wědg wood, a kind of pottery, brated Greek historian and general; which takes its name from the in.. writings of Xenophon,
ventor, Mr. Wedgwood.
CONFESSIONS OF A BASHFUL MAN.
to save me from the painful effects of this sudden fomentation, and for some minutes I seemed to be in a boiling caldron ;? but recollecting how Sir Thomas had disguised his torture when I trod upon his toe, I firmly bore my pain in silence, amid the stified giggling of the ladies and the servants.
3. I will not relate the several blunders which I made during the first course, or the distress occasioned by my being desired to carve a fowl, or help to various dishes that stood near me ; spilling a sauce-boat, and knocking down a salt-cellar : răther let me hasten to the second course, where fresh disasters overwhelmed me quite.
4. I had a piece of rich, sweet pudding on my fork, when Miss Louisa Friendly begged to trouble me for a pigeon that stood near me. In my haste, scarce knowing what I did, I whipped the pudding into my mouth, hot as a burning coal. It was impossible to conceal my agony ; my eyes were starting from their sockets. At last, in spite of shame and resolution, I was oblīged to drop the cause of torment on my plate.
5. Sir Thomas and the ladies all compassionated my misfortune, and each advised a different application. One recommended oil, another water ; but all agreed that wine was best for drawing out fire ; and a glass of sherry was brought me from the side-board, which I snatched up with ēagernèss; but, oh! how shall I tell the sequel ?
6. Whether the butler' by accident mistook, or purposely designed to drive me mad, he gave me the strongest brandy; with which I filled my mouth, already fayed' and blistered. Totally unused to every kind of ardent spirits, with my tongue, throat, and palate as raw as beef, what could I do? I could not swallow; and, clapping my hands upon my mouth, the liquor squirted through my fingers like a fountain, over all the dishes; and I was crushed by bursts of laughter from all quarters. In vain did Sir Thomas rép'rimando the servants, and Lady
Fo‘men tā' tion, a bathing with a household, whose principal busiwarm fluids.
ness is to take charge of the liquors, * Caldron, (kål' drun), a large ket- plate, etc. tle or boiler
Flāyed, skinned; having the • Course, the dishes set on the skin taken off. table at one time.
Rěp'ri mănd, to censure ; blame • Bắt' ler, an officer or servant in severely
Friendly chide her daughters ; for the measure of my shame and their diversion was not yět complete.
7. To relieve me from the intolerable state of perspiration which this accident had caused, without considering what I did, I wiped my face with that ill-fated handkerchief, which was still wet from the consequences of the fall of Xenophon, and core ered all my features with streaks of ink in every direction. The băronet himself could not support the shock, but joined his lady in the general laugh ; while I sprang from the table in despair, rushed out of the house, and ran home in an agony of confusion and disgrace which the most poignant sense of guilt could not have excited.
I. 185. LINES TO A CHILD ON HIS VOYAGE TO FRANCE.
T O! how impatiently upon the tide
Thou, William, still art young,
'Poignant, (pdin' ant), sharp: stinging ; severe; actually painful