Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Possessing no proofs of their culpability, the law, to extort a confession, administered the torture. The question was renewed with increased severity, during several months, and the accused, preferring death to a punishment so horrible, were on the point of declaring themselves guilty. Hearing that they were about to be decapitated, the real criminal, whom no one suspected, came forward and delivered himself into the hands of justice. Here again Conscience probably enacted her part. This event, so unfortunate for the innocent sufferers, had happily the effect of abolishing torture, as well as the fustigation to which prisoners had, until then, been subjected. After details of such semi-barbarism, can the reader doubt that we were approaching the north? And in truth, these tales still dwelt in our ears, as we came in sight of the town of Göttingen; its edifices, trees, and ramparts, mantling with the blush of the setting sun.

THE WANDERER,

[blocks in formation]

A DISH OF TEA.

BY TRE AUTHOR OF THE CIRCUS,' THE 'KUS HU W PROPERTY,' ETC.

IN TWO PARTS: PART TWO.

I PROMISED that I would return to tea, and join the maiden drinkers, in another dish. But first, let me remark that there is a point of some importance, connected with this subject, which I must leave to learned scholars to determine ; whether the herb which we call tea, be not that same nectar, so often mentioned in classic writings. I am mainly of the opinion that it is; that this the supplanted Hebe, and the bright boy Ganymede, who was too beautiful for earth, passed in golden goblets to the gods having Olympian habitations. How universal now is this soothing beverage! Not many years ago, and a few boxes, coming with pomp and circumstance from imperial Canton, were sufficient to glut the market. Once it was known to the rich and the noble ; now it is as extensive as the blessed light. The humble tenants of a cabin or a hut may sip their social tea in comfort. Where is the lip that doth not sip it ? Where is the cottage in which the smoke of its incense goeth not up? How nicely is it adapted, by its delicately varying shades, to every especial palate! There is your Bohea, and Congo, and Campo, and Souchong, and Pouchong, and Pekoe; there is Twankay, and Hyson, and Young Hyson, and Hysonskin, and Gunpowder, and Imperial. True, it is not all of equal excellency, or quality,' but still it hath the name of tea, and there is much, there is very much, in that, you know. But I am again with the drinkers.

It always truly did my heart good, to see Miss Patty presiding at the tea- table; there was such an irradiation of comfort from her bland yet tristful countenance. She was a fitting priestess to do the divine honors of the occasion, and to pour out libations. She performed them, not indeed with the airy grace and flourish of one who presides at a profane dinner, nor with the trivial air of a master of ceremonies; but with a placid gravity of demeanor, which was worthy of the nature of the banquet, and the starched dignity of her cap. How can I forget her ancient ‘loving kindnesses,' on such occasions ! How devoted was she to the interests of her guests! With what watchful assiduity she anticipated their wants, and hastened to "nip them in the bud!' How hardly she herself fared, barely stopping to take a casual sip, at intervals, like angels' visits, ' few and far between !' With what an air of serious importance, of ministerial solemnity, went forth the questions : ‘Have I made your tea right? Is your tea agreeable ?' And yours, madam, and yours?' And the no less solemn replies, 'A little more milk, if you please.'

* No milk, if you please. The least bit of sugar.' And then what a stirring of spoons, and what a sipping, and tasting, and testing, before it was ascertained with certainty whether the beverage was precisely adapted to their hypercritical palates. It would go hard with it, if the temperature were either blood warm, or moderately hot. It was like molten lead, and had it been thrown upon a dog, would have scalded him to death ; but to their salamander tongues, it was only genially warm. This perhaps was well, as

they did not gulp it humidly into the throat. They permitted it the rather to linger and loiter, like school-boys' candy on the tongue, and to go gradually trickling and percullating to its destination. Thus they protracted the enjoyment, until much time necessarily elapsed before that important era of the entertainment arrived, the moment for a SECOND CUP. To indulge in a second, was a mere matter of course. Some, it is true, very moderately requested a ‘half a cup,' but Miss Patty, in the generosity of her heart, always poured out a whole one, at least very nearly. I never knew a half a cup to descend lower than the second rim. She was not sparing of her tea. She never did things by halves. She thought it a pity that those who

looked upon the wine when it was red,' should pour forth their deathful brimmers, and that a virtuous liquor should be abstained from. She was herself a veteran, and drank the best

green. Never was a taste more accurate. She was not to be deceived by an inferior weed. She knew what was what.' She drank none of your mild infusions; she loved to behold the milk curdling in a strong decoction of the weed. It was in such cups, that her guests were wont to pledge her. And here, instead of putting them by the heads together, to defame their neighbors unjustly, I shall vindicate my client's liquor from the vulgar charge that it is the parent and promoter of scandal, and that its sacred urn is the favorite rendezvous where spinsters hatch their treasonable schemes. This charge, from being at first jocosely made, has come to be considered a hackneyed truth. But it is a pity that two things should be associated in the mind, which have no necessary relation or connection. PINDAR COCKLOFT, Esq., in his poem on Tea, which is particularly addressed to maiden ladies, falls in with the common notion :

* "Io harmless chit-chat an acquaintance they roast,
And serve up a friend, as they serve up a toast;
Some gentle faux pas, or some female mistake,
Is like sweetmeats delicious, or relished as cake;
A bit of broad scandal is like a dry crust,
It would stick in the throat, so they butter it first
With a little affected good nature, and cry,
Nobody regrets the thing deeper than I.'
Our young ladies nibble a good name in play,
As for pastime they nibble a biscuit away;
While with shrugs and surmises, the toothless old dame,
As she mumbles a crust, she will mumble a name:
And as the fell sisters astonished the Scot,
In predicting of Banquu's descendants the lot,
Making shadows of kings, amid Aashes of light,
To appear in array, and to frown in his sight,
So they conjure up spectres all hideous in hue,
Which, as shades of their neighbors, are passed in review.
The wives of our cits, of inferior degree,
Will soak up repute in a little bohea;
The potion is vulgar, and vulgar the slang
With which on their neighbors' defects they harangue;
But the scandal improves, a refinement in wrong!
As our matrons are richer, and rise to souchong:
With hyson, a beverage that's still more refined,
Our ladies of fashion enliven their mind,
And by nods, inuendoes, and hints, and what not,
Reputations and tea send together to pot.
While madam, in cambrics and laces array'd,
With her plate and her liveries in splendid parade,
Will drink, in imperial, a friend at a sup,
Or in gunpowder blow them by dozens all up!

[ocr errors]

Ah! poesy

eyes

sweet poesy! thus to revile this newest source of all thy inspiration! What if Harold, the morose bard, when he approached the old poetic mountain,' instead of that fine burst and apostrophe,

Oh! thou Parnassus, whom I now survey,

Not with the frenzy of a dreamer's eye,' etc., had poured forth maledictions on that hoary head? Ah! Pindar Cockloft, who knoweth but these paullo majora strains of thine were excited by this very tea ? — poured from its own exquisite urn, by some delicate hand which thou lovest; and yet thou dost turn round ungrateful, and revile the very muse and fount of thy poetic transports. This was an unkind cut. And prose lifts up her harsh voice, too. What wonder,' exclaims a Grabamitish friend of mine, who describes a knot of his acquaintance, and lets out his spleen against all vile narcotics, in a playful epistolary philipic ; ' what wonder that the powerful fumes of tea like theirs should ascend to the head, and tinge the whole current of conversation? The intoxication of it is indeed apparent; not such, it is true, as the wine produces, when wisdom grovels in the dust of debasement, and doffing her garments of soberness, enacts the harlequin, to excite the laughter of fools. I suppose we may rather call it a sacred rapture, such as the Delphic priestess felt, when she prophesied from the tripod of Apollo. It consists in a more vivid sense and appreciation of virtue. Their

flash with an unwonted fire ; their tongues are like a two-edged sword. Little spots, small stains in the reputation of others, scarce visible to the eye of a blind charity, now develope themselves as distinctly as the spots of the leper, and are held forth in the clear sunlight in all their bideous colors; and to have seen this litile sanctimonious band exercising the right of a stern censorship, and diligently seeking for motes in their neighbors' eyes, you would have thought that they were pure, even as an icicle is pure. I have known a flaw to be picked in the most virtuous of characters between a couple of sips of the best green tea, and the whole fabric of it to be demolished before the cup was 'out.' I have known many a 'good name,' to which the gold of Peru were but “trash,' thus taken violently away, (for, gentle souls ! they did not dream that it was a kind of robbery that they committed,) and the unhappy owners rendered 'poor indeed.' When the tea-table was cleared away, and the fumes ascended, and the lights were new-trimmed, and their feminine work drawn forth, so as to present a show of industry, the business of the evening fairly. commenced. Then came the hour for the discussion of character, for the comparison of notes, for the digestion of rumors, for the propounding of delicate questions, for the development of fresh scandal, and for settling the respective places of this, that, and the other, on a graduated scale of character. Wo, wo to those who were obnoxious to such a sifting! Shadracks, Meshecs, and Abednegos, must they be, who could come out unscathed from such a fiëry furnace! He that was writhing beneath one tongue like theirs, might not be deemed to sleep upon a bed of roses; but I pity the wretch condemned to suffer the combined attacks of all; from my soul I pity him, thus set upon, distracted, torn asun

der; like Cæsar at the base of Pompey's statue, stabbed with many wounds.

* It was not any of your dry crusts of scandal, that Susannah served up at these evening côteries. She brought none but dainty intelligence, tit-bits, delicate morsels, curious scraps. She brought to light things which might ever have remained hid; she exposed to view astounding derelictions from sobriety, from chastity, and from a holy life. Her developments were of so extraordinary a nature, as to cause a general rustling of caps in the apartment. They were not attended with any such provoking exclamations as, 'I expected as much;' not to be wondered at;' exactly as I predicted;' and such like, which take away of a sudden the right of discovery, and show that the ground has been occupied before ; but by unfeigned and gratifying ejaculations of · Who would have thought it? Is it possible ?

· Lord save us ! - what is the town coming to ? Then their mouths might be seen puckered into an elliptical form, such as would be produced by the utterance of the syllable aw ! — while low, monosyllabic, guttural ejaculations escaped them. These were accompanied with a rocking motion of the body, and a munching of the mouth, and pinches of snuff

, taken with a nervous trepidation. • Of all persons whom I have ever known, I think that these spinsters had the most consummate nack of arranging circumstances so as to bring out a desired result; in putting this and that together, to make that.' Things which, taken separately, would not weigh the weight of a feather, when summed up, formed an irresistible evidence. They prepared, they arranged, they combined their materials. They did not permit little things to escape them. The glance of an eye, the blush of a cheek, the expression of an guarded moment, together with what Mistress Such-an-one had confidentially mentioned ;' all went to prove something, or as Susannah would express it, with a significant wag of the head, 'This and that put together, makes that.'

Thus far the disciple of the Graham. Shall I condescend to make any reply to such hackneyed phrase? I will, in as few words as possible, merely by way of blank denial. That scandalous women sometimes gather around the tea-urn, I grant you; and that their cold natures seize upon that opportunity, when others would be melted into kindness by such social intercourse, to blast their neighbors' reputation. What then? They must have been full to the brim of malice, and must soon have given it vent elsewhere; perhaps more profusely, and with redoubled bitterness. But to cast reproach on the mild spirit of tea, for setting their wagging tongues in motion, would be as impolitic as to reproach the vernal breath which released the frozen notes from the baron's horn, and sent them forth, harsh, and discordant, to torture the ear, and find an echo where they could. If indeed there be envy, malice, or any other 'roots of bitterness,' nourished by the sex, so far from their being most prevalent around the tea-urn, I am more 'apt to think that they frequent those places where virtuous women never come. On the contrary, I assert, that tea mollifies instead of drawing out the evil passions, and that more schemes of Christian benevolence, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, educating the piously disposed, and providing

un

« AnteriorContinuar »