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Melfort, seemed not less pleased with the conversation than with the manners of that lady, who is indeed perfectly well-bred and accomplished; and the stranger, whose name was Melville, appeared equally to relish the spirit which distinguished the discourse of Mr. Umphraville
. I had early observed him to mark my old friend, as a member of the company not the least worthy of his attention.
The dinner was succeeded by a round of toasts, during which the ladies received scarce any other mark of attention from the company, Mr. Umphraville, Mr. Melville, and myself, excepted, than that of Mr. Melfort's calling for their toasts, which he always distinguished, by desiring us to fill a bumper.
Immediately after this ceremony was ended, they withdrew; a circumstance which seemed nowise disagreeable to the company they left, the greatest part of whom had hitherto sat mute, and plainty felt the
presence of the ladies a restraint on the free. dom and joility of conversation.
They had no sooner retired, than Mr. Melfort, raising himself in his chair, announced a bumper to the ladies who had left us; an order which was readily complied with, and seemed to spread an air of satisfaction around the table. The sea.captain said, he was glad the frigates had sheered off ; and • now,' added he, if you please, Mr. Melfort, as
the signal is given, we may clear the decks and • form the line of battle.'
The Captain's joke was applauded with a loud laugh; during which honest Umpbraville, whose face is no hypocrite, cast to my side of the table a look of displeasure and contempt, which I was at no loss to interpret. Meantime the servants removed one half of the table, that we might sit sociably, as Mr. Melfort termed it, round the other, which was immediately furnished with a set of fresh glasses, and cleared of every incumbrance that might retard the circulation of the bottle.
Our friends, who had been so silent during the presence of the ladies, now began to take their revenge, and enlarge their share of the conversation in proportion to the number of bumpers they swal. lowed : they vied with each other in the number of their stories and their jokes ; all of which seemed to be equally relished ; and not the less so, that they now became somewhat loose and licentious.
Mr. Melville had at first endeavoured, though in a very easy and polite manner, to give somewhat of à more refined turn to the conversation ; but his en. deavours, though supported by a good deal of wit and vivacity, could not long withstand the general disposition of the company.
He now found himself as little able to relish their merriment as Mr. Umphra. ville, next whom he was seated ; and they had begun to enter into conversation of a very different kind, when Umphraville received a slap on the shoulder from one of the company, who at the same reminded him that he was hunted,
My friend was at first startled with a familiarity to which he was little accustomed ; having recovered his composure, however, he thanked the gentleman, though with an air rather formal and reserved, for his attention, and drank off his bumper. But having, it seems, left a little more than was proper in the bot. tom of his glass, he was saluted with a call of • No • heeltops " from another corner of the table. This enigmatical advice being explained to him, he com. plied with it also, saying, however, with his natural firmness of tone and manner, • That it was his rule
to fill and drink his glass when and how he pleased ; and that, as he had already gone greater lengths than usual, Mr. Melfort must excuse him if he did not now depart from it.'
I saw that Mr. Umphraville was now heartily tired of the company, and was not sorry when, a little after this incident, both he and Mr. Melville with. drew. Having remained long enough to witness some jocular remarks to which this gave occasion, I followed them to the drawing-room, where I found they were much more agreeably employed in drinking coffee with Mrs. Melfort, while one of her daughters obliged my old friend by playing some Scots airs upon the harpsichord, which the other accompanied with a voice equally sweet and expressive.
The conversation which succeeded was supported in an easy agreeable manner, by Mr. Melville and the ladies, with that mixture of serious remark which made it not unpleasing to Mr. Umphraville; nor did he suffer in their opinion by the part he occasionally took in it. The silent approbation of his countenance, during the performance of the young ladies, and the observations which it gave him an opportunity of making on the character of our native music, had already made the old gentleman a favourite ; nor were the rest of the company displeased with the turn of his sentiments, when he complained, that the drawing-rooms, where, in his younger days, the ladies and gentlemen were accustomed to the company of each other, were now almost totally deserted ; and that, as far as he could observe, amidst the boasted refinement of modern manners, the gentlemen paid less attention to the ladies, both in public places and in private society, than they had done fifty years ago.
After some time passed in this manner, the noise of laughter and of vociferation on the stairs announ ced the approach of Mr. Melfort and his company: The physician, and one of the lawyers, were indeed the only members of it who had chosen to attend: hin to the drawing-room ; both of whom were pro. digiously flustered; and yet, to my astonishment, they contrived to put a decent face upon it, and fell into fewer improprieties than could have been ex. pected. A drawing-room however, was not their element; and, after swallowing a little coffee, they withdrew, leaving honest Melfort fast asleep in a corner of the settee.
Mr. Umphraville and I took our leave. We were scarce out of the house when he exclaimed,
• O rus! quando ego te aspiciam?'
And, after a little pause, Good God!' said he • Charles, can such scenes be common at poor Melfort's? To what a degree must he have lost all respect for himself and all taste for true happiness, who, for such society as we have this day witnessed, can forego the agreeable con( versation of his own family, or who can allow the elegance of their amusements to be disturbed by the intrusion of his loose and riotous companions? I represented to my
friend that he saw the matter in too strong a light. I observed that the excess on this occasion had probably been greater than usual; Mr. Melfort was nowise singular in the manner of entertaining his friends ; that, in this country, the general opinion justified the observation of the poet, * Fecundi calices quem non fecere disertum ;' that wine was supposed necessary to remove the natural reserve of our manner, and give a proper degree of ease and spirit to our conversation.
As to the appearance of Melfort and his friends in the drawing room, I observed, that a little habit made the occasional intrusion of a drunken company be considered as a sort of interlude, which ladies could bear without uneasiness; and, at any rate, as it was an equal chance that their future husbands would give such
dinners, and receive such guests, as their father did, it might not be improper to accustom them, in their earlier days, to a species of conversation and behaviour which they must afterwards be obliged to endure.
' Ay,' says he, Charles, this is your way; the follies of mankind are familiar to
and always ready to find an apology for them ; but I, ' who, for many years, have only heard of them, cannot • be supposed to bear their defects with as much pao tience. I am sick of this town of yours; and, • though I could have as much pleasure as any man • in witnessing such elegant manners, and partaking
in such agreeable conversation, as we saw and enjoyed during a part of this evening; if I must purchase it by sharing in the intemperance, the noise, 6 and the folly which succeeded it, should you won
der if I long to return to my books and my soli« tude ?
N° 77. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1780.
All impediments in fancy's course
AMIDST the variety of objects around us, philosophers have frequently been employed in pointing out and distinguishing those which are the sources of pleasure, and those which are productive of pain ; they have endeavoured also to investigate the causes