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sure, not for mine. When assembled in the family circle, my attempts were equally fruitless: the young ladies never happened to hear what was passing in their presence. Julia seldom answered till she had been addressed three times; and Emma generally chimed in to the middle of somebody's speech, with remarks quite foreign to the subject; setting all right in the end, by confessing they were thinking of something else: a compliment of which they were very prodigal in all companies.
As these ladies were Christians, I would not suppose them to be more than usually selfish, nor in their dispositions were they: but in defiance of what is usually supposed to be a requisition of good-breeding, they were invariably fond of talking of their own affairs. It has been said that, to be agreeable in conversation, we must never speak of ourselves; the Miss B.'s had no such maxim. However abstract might be the subject, where it began, it always ended in, “I saw,” ** I said,” “I did—my friends —my house-mystudies—my family-my prospects.” I had not long been acquainted with them, before I perceived that particular attention had been paid to the pronunciation of their words, and as their education had been something classical, it cannot be disputed that they were most technically correct.
There are those who think it more elegant, because more polite, to talk the language of the society in which we live, and allow words to keep the sound custom had assigned them. However this be, they had an invariable habit of repeating immediately, by accident of course, every word they supposed to be mispronounced by another. I never found an opportunity of telling them, that I knew those who would spoil any speech they happen to be making, rather than repeat in a different manner
a word they suppose to be mispronounced by another. I might not have observed upon this extraordinary accuracy, had it not been to contrast it with an inaccuracy of a very remarkable kind; for though so particular about the sound of words, these ladies evinced a marvellous disregard of their meaning. At the breakfast-table we had tea excruciatingly hot, poured out of a lovely teapot, and accompanied by bread and butter of infinite excellence. In our walks, we saw the sweetest ships that ever sailed the waters; the most exquisite cows that ever ate grass; and returning agonized with cold, we not unfrequently found a heavenly fire, by which we sate down enraptured: comfortably bewailing the cruel shortness of the days, and the eternal length of the nights; particularly when we had an immeusurable quantity of chesnuts to roast, of which the ladies declared themselves to be devotedly fond.
My ears were not the only senses doomed to be agonized, to use the ladies' own words, by their incongruities. As there was no appearance of extraordinary economy in Mrs. B.'s establishment, and I had no reason to suppose a want of means, I could not but be surprised at the ordinary adjustment of the young ladies' habiliments. The evenings I saw them in company, they were indeed expensively dressed; but on all common occasions it was difficult to say whether the sempstress or the washerwoman, was most wanted: added to which, their clothes, being always too big or too little, were evidently made for somebody else: the outer and the inner garments could seldom agree to keep the same boundary: the buttons would not button, and the ties would not tie. If other people wore things one way, the Miss B.'s wore them in the opposite: not, as I found on inquiry, from affected singularity; but because they
did not observe, but what other people's were the
After keeping us waiting half an hour for their presence at the dinner table, they made their appearance in the morning dress; not at all the cleaner for another day's service; excusing them. selves that they had not had time to dress. Observing Miss Emma's locks one morning in all the simplicity of native straightness, I ventured to ask if she had been bathing. By no means; but she had been reading so late the night before, she had not time to curl her hair.
One thing must be acknowledged; if the Miss B.'s never thought it necessary to please in manner, person, or conversation; there was at least so much of fairness in their dealing, that they never thought it necessary to be pleased themselves. I had been in the habit of supposing that civility requires us to seem pleased with whatever is done to please us, and that without dissimulation; for if the thing itself is not acceptable, the motive of kindness that dictates it should be so. Nothing you could show them met their expectations-nothing you could give them was what they wanted. Wherever you went with them, they wished themselves at home. If you talked to them they yawned; if you played to them they chattered; if you read to them they went to sleep. They were sufficiently attentive at all times to their own accommodation. Some might think they were totally occupied with themselves, to the entire exclusion of every thing else. If their companions would walk, they were tired: if they would sit, they feared to take cold. The grass was wet, and they could not damp their feet: the bushes had thorns, and they should tear their clothes: the stiles were high, and they could not get over: the hills were steep, and they could not get up. All great inconveniences, as every body knows; but as they were strong and healthy, I was inclined to wish they would sometimes wet their feet, rend their clothes, and take cold into the bargain, rather than be always consulting their bodies? welfare, to the impeding of every body's purpose and the interruption of every body's pleasure. But I fear my readers will be tired of my friends—in truth, and so was I.
THE TWO INVITATIONS.
Nothing can less contribute to vigour of action than protracted, anxious Auctuations, intermingled with resolutions decided and revolved; while yet nothing causes a greater expense of feeling. The heart is fretted and exhausted by being subjected to an alternation of contrary excitements, with the mortifying consciousness of their contributing to no end.
Some of my readers, I understand, wonder I contrive to hear so many things they never happen to have heard themselves. Nay, some even go so far as to doubt if I really do hear all I tell. I would advise them, that hearing depends greatly upon listening; for many things pass under our eyes that we do not see, and under our ears that we do not hear, for want of attention and observation: and, what is far more extraordinary, these very things that we hear not and see not, are the things we are ourselves doing, or saying, or thinking, or feeling. If I could prevail on some of my incredulous friends to listen to themselves, to what is whispered in their bosoms, as well as to what finds louder utterance, for one whole year, I should be much surprised if, at the end of it, they could not tell me some very marvellous stories: and some, perhaps, that had I told them, they might not have taken to be truth. This preamble I should not have made, as having little to do with the subject of my story, had I not been apprehensive that some of my readers will doubt whether I ever heard what I am going to relate.