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good aunt, who had been reading Tremaine, alarmed me by the highwrought delicacy of her sentiments. I left the company, almost persuaded that the old system was best; sighing deeply at the forlorn prospect I had of getting a wife by adhering to refinement. "Cruel creatures," cried I; "if their timidity must be approached with so much deference, how comes it to be so soon dispersed after marriage? Why in the very ceremony itself do they permit such a fuss? Well, positively, I am sorry that I did not slip in a caveat against gloves and favours; it would deter all who are fond of the ostentation of a wedding, and render my candidates more select." I slept very uneasily that night upon my solitary couch, and had a singular dream. I fancied myself a pigeon, upon whom some thoughtless urchin had fastened a pair of jackdaw wings, and whom he had flung into a poultryyard, where I was nearly pecked to death. In the morning I had scarce arrived at my friend's lodging, which I had selected for a direction, when a two-penny postman knocked at the door. It was for A. B., and conceived in these terms:
Sir,-Having casually heard of your advertisement this evening, I avail myself of the earliest opportunity to request, that you will enter into no definitive engagement, until you have heard further from the writer, whose person, manners, and circumstances, are exactly such as are comprehended in your description. A line to Y. Z. 2, Great Hurry St. will oblige.
Past midnight of Wed.
This billet excited much fluttering in my breast, and made me feel well inclined towards the dear creature, whoever she was, who had so expeditiously hastened to secure me to herself. I even felt flattered at her manifest anxiety, identifying myself so completely with my as-sumed initials, that I forgot that all the world had as good a right to them as myself, and consequently, that there was no particular con-descension towards me. But I was yet a mere novice in this business. I returned Y. Z. thanks in good set phrases, and wasted not a few romantic aspirations after conjugal delights-concluding with-" Oh ! that it were my lot to find that perfect love, ineffable desire, and confidence unbounded, in the arms of her, who has evinced such warmth. of disposition and benevolent promptitude in replying to my wishes! Be assured, kind lady, as yours is the first application, I shall hold myself tied up from concluding any engagement until I hear further from you. I conjure you to be explicit; grant me an interview; and throw no unnecessary impediment between me and felicity.-P. S. I set my face against all parade, particularly favours."
In the fullness of my heart I opened my counsels to my friend, and tried to inspire him with a portion of the sanguine hopes that filled my own bosom. My warmth overcame some strong objections of his, and he consented to engross my letter for me, and it was sent off immediately. I then resumed my argument to make him a convert to my method; but its prospects of success, more than my reasons, had weight with him: for regularly as the postman went by, there came one or two letters for A. B.; so that we both agreed it would be hard, if I could not pick one good one out of so many bidders. Indeed I was determined to be very nice, seeing that chances rained so thick upon me-and such chances-there was scarce one of them, but had
all the desirable qualities which constitute an excellent wife; fine person, beautiful voice, and fascinating accomplishments. Heavens! thought I, how come so many plain, ill-tempered creatures, to get married, when such lovely beings as these want husbands. My friend, who sat at the window, remarked several ladies on the opposite side of the way, staring up at him; some of whom passed up and down repeatedly. On reconnoitering from behind the blinds, I recognized most of the ladies, whom I had heard the evening before descanting upon the indelicacy of A. B.'s proceeding. It could be nothing but simple curiosity, I guessed, which could induce them to try and get a sight of the Advertiser; for it never fell into my head to conceive, that any of them could be the inditers of the epistolary samples before me: their persons were so dissimilar to the portraitures drawn there.
I had now plenty of business on hand to answer my various correspondents. Some I treated very cavalierly. On finding that one lady had omitted all mention of her property, I returned this laconic answer: "N. E. G. No. 4, Tune St. need not apply further." Q. E. D. had nothing to say for her good looks, a plain demonstration that they could not be commended-she would not do. One had shown herself a little too inquisitive about my pecuniary affairs, and the establishment I meant to keep for her; this smacked of worldliness, and I wrote, "L. S. D. will not answer." A fourth mentioned her jointure; a fifth her three small children; to both of whom I signified, "No widow need apply." In brief, I retained only the addresses of such as could sport a few superlatives-most agreeable-very charming extremely well-bred-perfectly independent. These epithets to be sure were qualified with a "has been thought;" but such modesty only made their descriptions of themselves the more alluring. Some were afraid that they were "too young and inexperienced, but hoped to render themselves amenable to the directions of a well-informed protector in A. B."
My friend was so enchanted with these autographical sketches, that he resolved upon advertising too; but as I was proud of having made him a proselyte to my method, and moreover felt a strong partiality for him, I offered to share my present stock with him; as the picture I had drawn of myself, would pass very well for a flattering likeness of him. He accepted the offer with much gratitude, and we sat down to divide our parcel. Of course I made a reserve of my dear Y. Z., and took first choice of the remainder. I culled out the picture of an exemplary wife in M. S., which might vie in eulogistical epithets with any epitaph in the Abbey, and in truth, as a piece of writing, it was worth much, though the composer herself should turn out to be worth nothing. I have no doubt but that I could dispose of it to-morrow, to any compiler of biographies or obituaries for the next deceased countess; but I am reserving it as a dedication to some living example of conjugal virtues. My friend then chose L. E. L. for her exalted tenderness, and so we divided the female attributes, according to their trancendency, between us.
In the course of the evening a second letter came from Y. Z., stating herself to be tall and well-made, with a much admired expression of
face; a complexion, which, if not the most beautiful, would at least wear well; bright blue eyes; fine features; nut-brown hair. In short, the face and person of my unknown were described with the accuracy of a French passport; each feature separately so good, that it was impossible to suppose the tout ensemble could be any thing but exquisite. She was besides mistress of 400l. a year, quite at her own disposal, and the dear generous creature only required to know what my future expectations were, as she was willing to forego present affluence with a young man, whose prospects were such as I had described mine to be. I fell into such an ecstasy, that I could not afford a thought to any of the other fair applicants, whose letters were consigned unanswered to my pocket, while I replied in rapturous terms to my sweet Y.Z. I told her my present income was 2007. per annum, and that I was heir expectant to 8007. a year from a maiden aunt, who was too old to marry, and who was actually troubled with an asthma, which her doctor had assured me would, please God! carry her off in six months. I concluded in my usual strain, imploring an interview as early as possible. To expedite matters, I sent a messenger with my letter to Great Hurry Street. All that night I dreamed of my unknown charmer, forming a thousand assemblages of blue eyes, brown ringlets, and soupçon de blonde complexion, sylph-like form, &c.; each succeeding personification more enchanting than the former; so that in the morning, all the romantic feelings were uppermost in my heart, and nothing but lover-like accents in my mouth. My friend somewhat dashed this agreeable delirium, by coming to inform me, that at ten the preceding night, a smart servant girl had inquired at his lodgings for A. B., and conceiving her to be a messenger from some of his customers, he had admitted her to an interview, and professed himself to be A. B. That then she told him, that she was sent by Y.Z. to say, that from the lateness of the hour she could not write, but would do so next day. "I guessed," continued my friend," that she merely came as a spy, and endeavoured to pump her, by assuming to be the principal concerned. The name of your Dulcinea is Dorothea; she is all that you can desire in face, figure, and fortune. Would that my first adventure in this lottery might turn out so good a prize!" This account, while it irritated my desires, excited my uneasiness: I began to be afraid of being disparaged by the report, which the maid would make of me to her mistress. My friend wanted two inches of my height, and, without vanity, was a very inadequate representative of my figure. I could not help telling him, that I was afraid he had done me. He replied, that the trick would not be discovered till all was concluded; and insinuated, that I ought to feel myself happy, in having been personated by so clever and adroit a fellow as himself, for that he had won the maid's good graces. Here was consummate self-love for you!-It seems he had further encroached upon my privileges, by sending a loving salute by the maid to the mistress: but this is the danger of making love, as monarchs do, by proxy. On reaching Little Hoax Street, I found the greater part of the evil I apprehended, removed by a letter from Y.Z., stating that she was satisfied with my account, and would consent to an interview; and naming the hour and place. I now con
ceived a new alarm, mingled with jealousy, which was not a little promoted by the vaunts of my friend. It was evident that he had made a strong impression on the maid, which had been transmitted to the mistress, and had induced her to this speedy appointment; and I began to apprehend that she might prefer a short, dapper fellow, to a man of becoming stature. But I had not much time to dwell on these comparisons, for the rendezvous was at twelve, at the house of a milliner in Taytatate Street. I had only two hours for the toilet, which passed in curling, dressing, and perfuming.
At length I turned out all in a flutter, scarce able to master my legs in a regular pace, and quite uncertain which side of the way to keep: but I gained the door at length, and gave a most aguish rap, of which I was heartily ashamed. I had just breath enough to inquire for a lady, Y. Z. "What name shall I announce?" demanded the servant. "A. B." said I, with a blush. "O fye! sir," said she, in an arch manner; "but I'll acquaint the lady." In a few moments she returned, telling me that Y. Z. was awaiting me in the back drawing-room. I handed her some loose silver, and begged a glass of water-brandy would have been more welcome, but then the smell! As soon as I had swallowed a mouthful, I ascended, and tapped at the room door. A gentle voice desired me to come in. Heavens ! how it thrilled through my veins, aud animated me all over! Entering briskly, I perceived a veiled lady, sitting on the sofa behind the door. Her face was modestly averted, but in return a slender ankle was rather prominently displayed, and a small hand, in white kid, drooped gracefully over the arm of the sofa. Could I do less than seize it passionately, and convey it to my lips, exclaiming, with a transport half-felt, half-feigned, "Fairest Dorothea, shall I not be blest with a sight of my angel's face?" Without answering my request, she started up, and prest both hands to her side, with a groan that chilled me; but I was well-nigh petrified when the form of my aunt Dorothy met my view. Though she had sunk back, half fainting, I was too bewildered to stir; nay, I secretly wished she might swoon away, to give me time to collect myself: but she had not come unprovided with scents and smelling-bottles, the use of which she prolonged, as well as her moans, till she had gathered a little reflexion. "Oh! Oh! you undutiful nephew! Oh! have I found you out?" were her first articulate expressions. "My dear aunt, we have found one another out; so the least said, is the soonest mended." "Oh! you mercenary wretch! to calculate upon my income, and to wish me dead in six months!" "My dear aunt, that was all flash and humbug, to take in Y. Z., whom I could never have imagined to be you, by your description." " Well, sir, and what was there misplaced in that description?" At this I gazed upon her, and strove hard to suppress a burst of laughter, as I ran over in my memory a catalogue of her charms: bright blue, for twinkling grey eyes; fine, for thin, pinched features; good wearing, for manufactured complexion; and nutbrown locks, for vendible fac similes to be had in any hair-dresser's shop as for tall and well made, they were tolerably accurate, the one referring to a spare lathy figure, and the other to a well-padded pair of stays. Finding, therefore, that there was something to swear by
in her epithets, I made no bones of assuring her that they fitted, and became her very well; but it was the misstatement of her income that puzzled me. "Aye!" said she, "you men are so self-interestedyou thought you had a good catch now; but know, that one-half of my income has been assigned over to a friend, and cannot be touched without my consent; and no husband on earth should have wormed that out of me." I was glad to hear this, and chimed in with the old lady, both as to the prudence of that step, and the means which she had taken to procure a partner to share the remainder. I acted with all the bon hommie imaginable, and insinuated, that as this rencontre had laid us open to one another, and might expose us to ridicule if divulged, it was best to be friends, and hush up matters. I promised to give her a clue, by which she might know my advertisements in future. I stretched my confidence still further, for I showed her, boastingly, the various letters I had received from my other applicants. She deliberately read that of M. S. through. "Why! this is the handwriting and signature of old Maud Scripton, whom you heard declaiming at my house against matrimony. She is precisely the reverse, in every particular, of the picture drawn here; cross, fusty, pedantic, and ill-natured in spirit; yellow, wrinkled, and deformed in exterior." I found the rest of my budget nearly as bad, according to my aunt's testimony. P. A. and A. D. were the two Miss Annums, who gave themselves out for young heiresses, on the strength of not having attained their fortieth year, and enjoying life-annuities of a hundred a year each. N. B. was one of the B-e family, the same who had prophesied that none but abandoned women would deign to notice a matrimonial advertisement. She had been herself talked of, as my aunt emphatically whispered me, and could by no means be warranted sound in character. I was profuse in thanks to my aunt, and intreated her direction in future cages, offering my services to her in her little affairs of this nature. She did not exactly accept my proposal, but was so well pleased with my polite behaviour, that she promised to look out for a wife for me; and as I declared my reluctance to a protracted suit, whether in love or Chancery, she promised to stipulate for an immediate capitulation with any young lady whom she might approve. I then returned to my ally's, somewhat comforted for the loss of Y. Z. &c. &c. &c.
To my friend's inquiry I barely answered, that the lady would not have me, but that he might try his chance, and that I was privileged to introduce him. He was obliged to me, but just now he had a previous engagement on hand. F. P. had graciously consented to visit him that afternoon, and he momentarily expected her. I was still reading over the flaming announcement, which I took care not to undervalue to my friend, when a thundering rap announced the visitor. I was thrust into the back room, and desired to find my way down stairs, as soon as the lady entered. But I was too curious to find out whether Fortune had favoured him more than me, not to make the best use I could of eye and ear. I heard silks rustling into the room, and at that moment caught a view of Harry's face, through the key-hole. That I could but describe the air of dilemma and mortification which it exhibited! He seemed nailed to the floor, and kept snuffling with his pocket-handkerchief to conceal his confusion.