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which made me more eager to prevent him ; and, hastily laying my hand on the first volume, I pulled it forciblywhen, 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 wedgewood inkstand on the table under it. In vain did Sir Thomas assure me there was no harm done. 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 cambric handkerchief. In the height of this confusion, we were informed that dinner was served up.
In walking through the hall and suite of apartments to the dining-room, I had time to collect my scattered senses ; till I was desired to take my seat at table, betwixt Lady Friendly and her eldest daughter. Since the fall of the wooden Xenophon, my face had been continually burning like a fire-brand; and I was just beginning to recover myself, and to feel comfortably cool, when an unlooked-for accident rekindled all 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 of my clothes, they were not stout enough to save me from the painful effects of this sudden fomentation, and, for some minutes, my legs seemed stewed in a boiling caldron; but recollecting how Sir Thomas had disguised his torture when I trod upon his gouty 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 which I made during the first course, or the distresses 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 quite overwhelmed me.
I had a piece of rich sweet pudding on my fork, when Miss Louisa Friendly begged to trouble me for part of a pigeon that stood near me. In my haste, scarce knowing
what I did, I whipped the pudding into my mouth-hot as a burning coal ! it was imposssble to conceal my agony; my eyes were starting from their sockets ! At last, in spite of shame or 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 perhaps the best for drawing out the heat;
and a glass of sherry was brought me from the sideboard--I snatched it up with eagerness : but oh! how shall 1 tell the sequel? Whether the butler by accident mistook, or purposely designed to drive me mad, I know not; but he gave me the strongest brandy, with which I filled my mouth, already flayed and blistered. Totally unused to every kind of 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 burning liquor squirted through my nose and fingers, like a fountain, over all the dishes, and I was crushed by bursts of laughter from all quarters. In vain did Sir Thomas reprimand the servants, and Lady Friendly chide her daughters; 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 handkerchief, still wet from the consequences of the fall of Xenophon, and covered my features with streaks of ink in every direction! The baronet himself could not support this shock, but joined his lady in the general laugh ; while I sprang 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 not bave excited.
Let me entreat that you will not add to my sufferings by ungenerous ridicule; or still further increase my unhappy notoriety, by making my infirmity, at any future time, the subject of your conversation.
THE LAST OF THE SARPINTS.—(Croker.) SURE everybody has heard tell of the blessed St. Patrick, and how he druv the sarpints and all manner of venomous things out of Ireland : how he bothered all the varmint entirely. ,
But, for all that, there was one ould sarpint left, who was too cunning to be talked out of the counthry, and made to drown himself. St. Patrick didn't well know how to manage this fellow, who was doing great havoc; till at long last he bethought himself, and got a strong iron chest made with nine boults upon it. So one fine morning he takes a walk to where the sarpint used to keep; and the sarpint, who didn't like the saint in the least, and small blame to him for that, began to hiss and show his teeth at him like anything. Oh !” says St. Patrick, says he, “where's the use of making such a piece of work about a gentleman like myself coming to see you? 'Tis a nice bouse I have got made for you agin the winter; for I'm going to civilise the whole counthry, man and beast,” says he, “and you can come and look at it whenever you please, and 'tis myself will be glad to see you.” The sarpint, hearing such smooth words, thought that tho' St. Patrick had druv all the rest of the sarpints into the sea, he meant no harm to himself ; so the sarpint walks fair and easy up to see him and the house he was speaking about. But when the sarpint saw the nine boults upon the chest, he thought he was sould and was for making off with himself as fast as ever he could ! “ 'Tis a nice warm house, you see,” says St. Patrick," and ’tis a good friend I am to you." "I thank you kindly, St. Patrick, for your civility," says the sarpint ; " but I think it too small for me - meaning it for an excuse, and away he was going. “ Too small !” says St. Patrick, “stop, if you please,” says he ; “you're out in that, my boy, anyhow,I am sure 'twill fit you completely; and I'll tell you what, says he, “ I'll bet you a gallon of porter,
says he, “that if you'll only try and get in, there'll be plenty of room for you.”
Now the sarpint was as thirsty as could be with his walk; and 'twas great joy to him the thoughts of doing St. Patrick out of the gallon of porter ; so, swelling himself up
as big as he could, in he got to the chest, all but a little bit of his tail. “ There, now, says he, “ I've won the gallon, for you see the house is too small for me, for I can't get in my tail !” When what does St. Patrick do, but he comes behind the great heavy lid of the chest, and, putting his two hands to it, down he slaps it with a bang like thunder. When the rogue of a sarpint saw the lid coming down, in went his tail like a shot, for fear of it being whipped off him, and St. Patrick began at once to boult the nine iron boults. • Oh, murder ! won't you let me out, St. Patrick ?” says the sarpint; “ I've lost the bet fairly, and I'll pay the gallon like a man.” “Let you out, my darling,” says St. Patrick ;“ to be sure I will, by all manner of means; but you see I haven't time now, so you must wait till to-morrow!” And so he took the iron chest, with the sarpint in it, and pitches it into the lake here, where it is to this hour for certain ; and 'tis the sarpint struggling down at the bottom that makes the waves upon it. Many is the living man besides myself has heard the sarpint crying out from within the chest under the water—" Is it to-morrow yet ?—is it to-morrow yet ?” which, to be sure, it never can be : and that's the way St. Patrick settled the last of the sarpints, sir.
BLUNDERS IN PUNCTUATION AND COMPOSITION. (From "Book OF BLUNDERS,” by kind permission of
John S. Marr & Sons, Glasgow.) It is a moral lesson on the power of “littles” to notice how completely the alteration of the smallest punctuating mark may change the sense of a whole passage.
Recently, in an auctioneer's list, the misplacing of a little hyphen, introduced, amongst the articles for sale, camels' hair-brushes”-an item that ought to have been interesting to Mr. Darwin. An American paper reported, on one occasion, the capture, in mid-channel, of “ a large maneating shark”. Another paper, copying the paragraph, but less careful about the punctuation, reported that “ a large man, eating shark, was captured in mid-channel ”.
It is well that Heaven knows where commas are wanting,
or the poor soldier's scrap to his wife, "May Heaven cherish and keep you from yours affectionately John D—"might have led to unwished-for consequences.
In Ramessa there dwelt a prior of great liberality, who caused these lines to be written over his door
Be open ever more, O thou my door,
To none be shut, to honest or to poor." His successor, a priest of the name of Raynhard, was as niggardly as the other had been bountiful. He did not even go to the expense of painting out the lines; he simply altered the position of one point, which made the couplet read thus
“Be open evermore, O thou my door,
To none, be shut to honest or to poor.” A somewhat similar anecdote is told of a barber who had a couplet over his door without any punctuation at all, but which the passer-by read thus
“What do you think?
I'll shave you for nothing and give you a drink.” If any victim went in to avail himself of this apparently magnanimous offer, he found that the barber's reading of it
“What! do you think
I'll shave you for nothing and give you a drink ?" to which his reply was, of course, a negative.
Reading in disregard of the punctuation, or with false pauses or inflections, produces effects similar to the misplacing of points in printing.
For instance, a precentor, getting the intimation—“A sailor going to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation,” gave it forth as if it were a sailor going to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation
Another man, reading the verse beginning, “ The wicked flee when no man pursueth,” &c., paused after “flee, making it read as it were, “The wicked flea, when no man pursueth but the righteous, is bold as a lion ".
At a Delmonico dinner the toast—“Woman- without her, man is a brute,” was given—"Woman, without her man, is a brute”.
Another case is that of a New York editor who thus