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Who has not heard his glass shades pop one after another, with a report as harassing as the small arms of an enemy? Who has not welcomed “the tall mould candle straight and round,” while the costly lamp, that gave for five minutes a gleam of light, is
“Wisely kept for show.”
But I have other themes of varied trouble to relate. One commencement day a large party assembled to dine with us, after the college exercises. Edward had presented me with a new silk dress. It was a rare and important addition to my wardrobe, and I made my toilet with many resolutions to be careful of it. As I sat at the table, with the consciousness of a well-ordered dinner and an appropriate dress, whose value to me was doubly enhanced by its being Edward's choice, one of the waiters, with a zeal worthy of a better cause, jostled by another, who was reaching above my shoulder to deposite a gravy-boat, and knocked it over. I felt the warm stream trickle through my lace tippet, and saw it pour into my lap. Selon la règle, I was obliged either not to notice or make a jest of it. I had the resolution not to look at the servant (how often have I seen looks speak more than words!) and turning quietly to my left-hand neighbour, I said, “Pray, sir, excuse my being helped first.” A short period only elapsed before Edward was called upon to sympathize with me in a similar experience." Being invited to a ceremonious party, he mounted a new coat. I could perceive considerable complacency in his manner of pulling down the waist and turning out the collar. He was in excellent spirits through the evening, and on his return said, laughing, “Either I or my new coat was a great favourite this evening, for my friends certainly regarded me with uncommon interest.” “And well they might!” I exclaimed, in alarm, on looking at him, “for you have half of one of Mrs. Winthrop's candles streaming down from your collar to your elbow.”
Poor Edward was thrown all aback. “Hang it,” said he, quite off his guard, “I can interpret their looks now. They could not quite resolve to tell me what a figure I cut, and I thought they were admiring my genteel person, while I was strutting about with the sign of a tallow-chandler on my shoulder.” o Speaking of a new coat reminds me of an anecdote of Mr. Shaw, a literary friend of ours. In the pride of his heart he too put on a coat fresh from the tailor's, to attend a party, and while bowing to the ladies, an acquaintance tapping him on the shoulder said, “Shaw, your coat was very reasonable,” pointing at the same time to the tailor's mark, which was pinned conspicuously on the skirt. When albums were first in vogue, a choice one was sent us for our contributions. I have always loved albums, much as they have been ridiculed. They seem to me the leading-strings of literature, and it interests me to see the ardour of a young lady, when, opening the gilt leaves, she finds there sentiments dedicated to impure characters on those unsullied leaves! Indeed, so sacred are they, that though folly often intrudes upon them, vice rarely profanes them. The album sent us was elegantly bound, and enriched by contributions from native poets. Edward and I communicated our mite immediately. It is a good rule. The next day I looked at the book to review what I had written, but what was my dismay at finding its beautiful pages discoloured with lamp oil. Down it had streamed over a sentimental effusion of Wilde; Percival's wing was clogged, and even Bryant's purity was marred by the contact.
“I did not think to shed a tear”
over my silk frock or Edward's coat, but this was really alarming. An album I could purchase, but how restore the handwriting of those poets on which I knew the enthusiastic owner loved to dwell with natural pride? I summoned Becky Rand, “my woman in the kitchen,” (the New-England circumlocution for cook). She confessed that after I had retired she thought it would do no harm to read a little,
and being “dozy,” she let the kitchen lamp fall on the book and “il'd” it. I suspected as much from Becky's literary taste. I had often observed a volume of “Zimmerman on Solitude,” covered with blue homespun, lying on the dresser, and once, being in want of a skewer, detected one put for a mark at the following anecdote. “The celebrated Armelle, who died in the convent of Vannes, was placed by her parents, who were villagers, as a menial servant in the house of a neighbouring gentleman, with whom she lived five-and-thirty years (just Becky's age). During this time his groom, finding the kitchen-door fastened, had the curiosity to peep through the keyhole, where he discovered the pious maid in a paroxysm of divine ecstasy, spitting a fowl. The youth was so much affected by this religious fervour, that he devoted himself to a convent.” Becky was very sentimental, and usually had an interjectional remark whenever I entered the kitchen.