Rebecca Is in Presence of the Enemy
A VERY stout, puffy man, in buckskins and Hessian boots, with several immense neckcloths that rose almost to his nose, with a red striped waistcoat and an apple green coat with steel buttons almost as large as crown pieces (it was the morning costume of a dandy or blood of those days) was reading the paper by the fire when the two girls entered, and bounced off his arm-chair, and blushed excessively, and hid his entire face almost in his neckcloths at this apparition.
“It’s only your sister, Joseph,” said Amelia, laughing and shaking the two fingers which he held out. “I’ve come home FOR GOOD, you know; and this is my friend, Miss Sharp, whom you have heard me mention.”
“No, never, upon my word,” said the head under the neckcloth, shaking very much–“that is, yes–what abominably cold weather, Miss”–and herewith he fell to poking the fire with all his might, although it was in the middle of June.
“He’s very handsome,” whispered Rebecca to Amelia, rather loud.
“Do you think so?” said the latter. “I’ll tell him.”
“Darling! not for worlds,” said Miss Sharp, starting back as timid as a fawn. She had previously made a respectful virgin-like curtsey to the gentleman, and her modest eyes gazed so perseveringly on the carpet that it was a wonder how she should have found an opportunity to see him.
“Thank you for the beautiful shawls, brother,” said Amelia to the fire poker. “Are they not beautiful, Rebecca?”
“O heavenly!” said Miss Sharp, and her eyes went from the carpet straight to the chandelier.
Joseph still continued a huge clattering at the poker and tongs, puffing and blowing the while, and turning as red as his yellow face would allow him. “I can’t make you such handsome presents, Joseph,” continued his sister, “but while I was at school, I have embroidered for you a very beautiful pair of braces.”
“Good Gad! Amelia,” cried the brother, in serious alarm, “what do you mean?” and plunging with all his might at the bell-rope, that article of furniture came away in his hand, and increased the honest fellow’s confusion. “For heaven’s sake see if my buggy’s at the door. I CAN’T wait. I must go. D– that groom of mine. I must go.”
At this minute the father of the family walked in, rattling his seals like a true British merchant. “What’s the matter, Emmy?” says he.
“Joseph wants me to see if his–his buggy is at the door. What is a buggy, Papa?”
“It is a one-horse palanquin,” said the old gentleman, who was a wag in his way.
Joseph at this burst out into a wild fit of laughter; in which, encountering the eye of Miss Sharp, he stopped all of a sudden, as if he had been shot.
“This young lady is your friend? Miss Sharp, I am very happy to see you. Have you and Emmy been quarrelling already with Joseph, that he wants to be off?”
“I promised Bonamy of our service, sir,” said Joseph, “to dine with him.”
“O fie! didn’t you tell your mother you would dine here?”
“But in this dress it’s impossible.”
“Look at him, isn’t he handsome enough to dine anywhere, Miss Sharp?”
On which, of course, Miss Sharp looked at her friend, and they both set off in a fit of laughter, highly agreeable to the old gentleman.
“Did you ever see a pair of buckskins like those at Miss Pinkerton’s?” continued he, following up his advantage.
“Gracious heavens! Father,” cried Joseph.
“There now, I have hurt his feelings. Mrs. Sedley, my dear, I have hurt your son’s feelings. I have alluded to his buckskins. Ask Miss Sharp if I haven’t? Come, Joseph, be friends with Miss Sharp, and let us all go to dinner.”
“There’s a pillau, Joseph, just as you like it, and Papa has brought home the best turbot in Billingsgate.”
“Come, come, sir, walk downstairs with Miss Sharp, and I will follow with these two young women,” said the father, and he took an arm of wife and daughter and walked merrily off.