‘Six o’clock,’ replied Mr Jawleyford, ‘six o’clock -- say six o’clock -- not particular to a moment -- days are short, you see -- days are short.’

‘I think I should like a glass of sherry and a biscuit, then,’ observed Mr Sponge.

And forthwith the bell was rung, and in due course of time Mr Spigot arrived with a tray, followed by the Miss Jawleyfords, who had rather expected Mr Sponge to be shown into the drawing-room to them, where they had composed themselves very prettily, one working a parrot in chenille, the other with a lapful of crochet.

The Miss Jawleyfords -- Amelia and Emily -- were lively girls; hardly beauties -- at least not sufficiently so to attract attention in a crowd, but still, girls well calculated to ‘bring a man to book,’ in the country. Mr Thackeray, who bound up all the home truths in circulation, and many that exist only in the inner chambers of the heart, calling the whole Vanity Fair, says, we think (though we don’t exactly know where to lay hand on the passage), that it is not your real striking beauties who are the most dangerous -- at all events, that do the most execution -- but sly, quiet sort of girls, who do not strike the beholder at first sight, but steal insensibly upon him as he gets acquainted. The Miss Jawleyfords were of this order. Seen in plain morning gowns, a man would meet them in the street, without either turning round or making an observation, good, bad, or indifferent; but in the close quarters of a country house, with all the able assistance of first-rate London dresses, well flounced and set out, each bent on doing the agreeable, they became dangerous. The Miss Jawleyfords were uncommonly well got up, and Juliana, their mutual maid, deserved great credit for the impartiality she displayed in arraying them. There wasn’t halfpenny’s worth of choice as to which was the best. This was the more creditable to the maid, inasmuch as the dresses -- sea-green glacées -- were rather dashed; and the worse they looked, the likelier they would be to become her property. Half-dashed dresses, however, that would look rather seedy by contrast, come out very fresh in the country, especially in winter, when day begins to close in at four. And here we may observe, what a dreary time is that which intervenes between the arrival of a guest and the dinner hour, in the dead winter months in the country. The English are a desperate people for overweighting their conversational powers. They have no idea of penning up their small talk, and bringing it to bear in generous flow upon one particular hour; but they keep dribbling it out throughout the livelong day, wearying their listeners without benefiting themselves -- just as a careless waggoner scatters his load on the road. Few people are insensible to the advantage of having their champagne brisk, which can only be done by keeping the cork in; but few ever think of keeping the cork of their own conversation in. See a Frenchman -- how light and buoyant he trips into a drawing-room, fresh from the satisfactory scrutiny of the looking- glass, with all the news, and jokes, and tittle-tattle of the day, in full bloom! How sparkling and radiant he is, with something smart and pleasant to say to everyone! How thoroughly happy and easy he is and what a contrast to phlegmatic John Bull, who stands with his great red fists doubled, looking as if he thought whoever spoke to him would be wanting him to endorse a bill of exchange! But, as we said before, the dread hour before dinner is an awful time in the country -- frightful when there are two hours, and never a subject in common for the company to work upon. Laverick Wells and their mutual acquaintance was all Sponge and Jawleyford’s stock-in-trade; and that was a very small capital to begin upon, for they had been there together too short a time to make much of a purse of conversation. Even the young ladies, with their enquiries after the respective flirtations -- how Miss Sawney and Captain Snubnose were ‘getting on’? and whether the rich Widow Spankley was likely to bring Sir Thomas Greedey to book? -- failed to make up a conversation; for Sponge knew little of the ins and outs of these matters, his attention having been more directed to Mr Waffles than anyone else. Still, the mere questions, put in a playful, womanly way, helped the time on, and prevented things coming to that frightful dead-lock of silence, that causes an involuntary inward exclamation of ‘How am I to get through the time with this man!’ There are people who seem to think that sitting and looking at each other constitutes society. Women have a great advantage over men in the talking way; they have always something to say. Let a lot of women be huddled together throughout the whole of a livelong day, and they will yet have such a balance of conversation at night, as to render it necessary to convert a bedroom into a clearing-house, to get rid of it. Men, however, soon get high and dry, especially before dinner; and a host ought to be at

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.