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THE BASAFUL MAN,
THE BASHFUL MA N.
AMONG the various good and bad qualities incident to our nature, I am unfortunately that being overstocked with the one called bashfulness : for you must know, I inherit such an extreme susceptibility of shame, that, on the smallest subject of confusion, my blood rushes into my cheeks, and I appear a perfect full-blown rose ; in short, I am commonly known by the appellation of "The Bashful Man.” The consciousness of that unhappy failing made me formerly avoid that social company I should otherwise have been anxious t) appear in ; till at length, becoming possessed of an ample fortune by the death of an old rich uncle, and vainly supposing that money makes the man, I was determined to shake off my natural timidity, and join the gay throng : with this view I accepted an invitation to dine with one, whose open, easy manner left me no room to doubt of a cordial welcome. Sir Thomas Friendly was an intimate acquaintance of my late uncle's, with two sons and five daughters, all grown up, and living with their mother and a maiden sister of Sir Thomas's. Conscious of my unpolished gait, I for some time took private lessons of a person who teaches “
grown gentlemen to dance." Having by this means acquired th> art of walking without tottering, and learned to make a bow, I boldly ventured to obey the baronet's invitation to a family dinner, not doubting but my new acquirements 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 ! As I approached the house, a dinner-bell alarmed my fears, lest I had spoiled the dinner by want of punctuality. Impressed with the idea, 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 first entrance I summoned
all my fortitude, and made my new-learned bow to Lady Friendly; but, unfortunately, in bringing my left foot to the third position, I trod upon the gouty toe of poor Sir Thomas, who had followed close to my heels, to be the nomenclator of the family. The confusion this occasioned in me is hardly to be conceived, since nove but bashful men can judge of my distress ; and,
At my THE BASHFUL MAN.
46 of that description, the number, I believe, is very small. The baronet's politeness by degrees dissipated my concern; and I was astonished to see how far good breeding could enable him to support his feelings, and to appear with perfect ease, after so painful an accident.
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 in conversation, and even to start fresh subjects. The library being richly furnished with books in elegant bindings, and observing an edition of Xenophon, in sixteen volumes, which (as I had never before heard of it) greatly excited my curiosity, I rose up to examine what it could be. Sir Thomas saw what I was about, and (as I supposed) willing to save me the 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. 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 progress with my pocket-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.
In walking through the hall and suite of apartments 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 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 my heat and blushes. 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 off my clothes, my black silk breeches were not stout enough to save me from the painful effects of this sudden fomentation, and for some minutes my legs
THE BASHFUL MAN.
and thighs seemed stewing in a boiling cauldron; but, recollecting how Sir Thomas had disguised his torture when I trod upon his toe, I firmly bore my pain in silence, and sat with my lower extremities parboiled, amidst the stifled giggling of the ladies and servants.
I will not relate the several blunders 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 ; rather let me hasten to the second course, where fresh disasters overwhelmed me quite.
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, scarcely 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 obliged to drop the cause of torment on my plate. 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 the best for drawing out fire ; and a glass of sherry was ordered from the sideboard, which I snatched up with eagerness ; but, oh ! how shall I tell the sequel ? 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 flayed and blistered. Totally unused to 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 cursed liquor squirted through my nose and fingers like a fountain over all the dishes, and I was crushed by bursts of laughter from every quarter. In vain did Sir Thomas reprimand the servants, and Lady Friendly chide her daughters ; for the measure of my shame and their diversion was not yet complete. 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 pocket-handkerchief, which was still wet from the consequences of the fall of the Xenophon, and covered my face with streaks of ink in every direction. The baronet himself could not support this shock, but joined his lady in the general laugh ; while
THE ORPHAN BOY.
I sprung 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 only have excited.
THE ORPHAN BOY.
ALAS ! I am an orphan boy,
Nor kin nor kind to take my part
Í eat the bread of charity;
There is no kiss, alas ! for me.
A mother, too, I wont to prize,
If chanced a childish tear to rise :
For all my heart was youthful glee ;
How sweet a kiss there was for me.
What is a war ? I cannot tell.
And loudly rang our village bell.
I thought; nor could I thence foresee
There soon would be no kiss for me.
And sword, as bright as bright could be :
All in a shining cap had he.
Alas! I thought it fine to see,
There soon would be no kiss for me.
THE ORPHAN BOY.
My mother sigh’d, my mother wept
My father talked of wealth and fame ;
Till I to see her did the same.
My father mounts with shout and glee ;
And, ah ! how sweet a kiss to me. But when I found he rode so far,
And came not back as heretofore, I said it was a naughty war,
And loved the fife and drum no more. My mother oft in tears was drown'd,
Nor merry tale nor song had she : And when the hour of night came round
Sad was the kiss she gave to me. At length the bell again did ring
There was a victory, they said : 'Twas what my father said he'd bring.
But, ah ! it brought my father-dead ! My mother shriek’d-her heart was woe;
She clasped me trembling to her knee : And oh, that you may never know
How wild a kiss she gave to me! But once again—but once again
These lips a mother's kisses felt; That once again—that once again
The tale a heart of stone would melt Twas when upon her death-bed laid ;
(Oh, what a sight was that to see !) 'My child, my child,” she feebly said,
And gave a parting kiss to me. So now I am an orphan boy,
With nought below my heart to cheer ; No mother's love—no father's joy,
Nor kin nor kind to wipe the tear.
I eat the bread of charity ;
There is no kiss of love for me. Thelwall.