As the adventures of the Advertising Lady and her admirers have afforded much amusement to the Attic Society the following particulars of the interview at Birchall’s may not be uninteresting and if they give but half as much pleasure to the members in the perusal as they did to me in collecting, I shall think myself well paid for my trouble, nor will they have any reason to repine at my tediousness.
As Mr Birchall is under many obligations to me, I obtained his permission to attend as one of the shopmen on Friday last, and accordingly at 11 o’clock I took my station behind the counter disguised in and old coat and wig, with a pen behind my ear and expecting a high treat.
The first person who entered was a lady whom at first I thought might be the advertiser, but was soon undeceived by perceiving a ridicule in her hand and that she was of too majestic a height though her hat and feathers corresponded to the description. A certain air of learning and dignity however convinced me that she belonged to the Attic Society, more especially as she seemed to linger long and frequently looked around as expecting to see some one.
As the appointed hour approached numerous were those attracted to the shop by curiosity, and highly amusing was it to observe the scrutinizing glances with which they regarded each other, the trifling pretences for coming and the frivolous excuses for remaining long after their demands were satisfied, which I was of course very ready in admitting and promoting.
One gentleman tired me a full half hour about a song called “The Blue Eye” or “The Blue Ey’d Maid” (he could not remember which) and even had it put down in the order book. He appeared very much disappointed at being obliged after waiting nearly an hour, to go away without seeing the lady. It is a curious circumstance but one which some of the Society will doubtless be able to explain that almost every one who came asked for this same song, which I understand from Mr Birchall never had any existence, but in their imaginations. It became indeed a test by which I distinguished real customers to the shop from those drawn thither by curiosity.
As the Advertising Lady did not arrive till ½ past 2 most of the company were tired out, and the coast was pretty well cleared. I immediately distinguished her by the description she had given of herself, but had I not heard it, the studied simplicity and tasteless affectation of her dress and manners would have betrayed her. She walked up to the counter with a careless air and asked with an agreeable smile for a sheet of the newest country dances but she was in such agitation that I put her up two or three old Psalm tunes in their stead without her perceiving it. Soon after her arrival a shabbily dressed man marched in with a great deal of impudence and assurance, and tormented me for a long time, without as I perceived any intention to purchase. I imagined that one as mean in his appearance could not possible belong to the A.C. till I found by some hints which he dropped, that he was Alopex. He quitted the shop with a glance of the most consummate indifference and contempt on the Lady and thus delivered me from what I said he considered the Honour of his conversation. The fair lady’s color and confusion had increased on his entrance and she rose and waved her handkerchief with a motion rather too quick to be graceful but on perceiving that Alopex was determined not to notice her, she sat down again with a look of deepest disappointment. Alopex was scarcely gone when a very splendid carriage drove up to the door and I was called to it to attend the Hon. Mr. Dives who looked very attentively and inquisitively into the shop, but was too great a man to leave his carriage. He gave a large order for music but did not detain me long.
When he had departed I endeavoured to persuade the Lady to buy some of the old lumber of the warehouse, which I praised with the flowers of shop eloquence, talked at random of crescendoes and diminuendoes &c. and had given the Lady a pretty high idea both of my learning and my gallantry, when a young man of genteel appearance and elegant manners entered with a look expressive of hope and joy, mingled with a portion of anxious solicitude and expectation. The pleasing expression of his countenance was however somewhat diminished when he perceived the Lady and the waving handkerchief, the signal of peace and parley. He stopped and seemed to hesitate for a moment, but good breeding triumphed and he advanced to meet the Lady, though she was evidently not the person he had hoped to see.
The Lady at first was all joyful confusion, and they withdrew to the other end of the shop where I really had not ill manners enough to follow them, but was contented with observing them attentively. She was too much agitated to see the cold and respectful manner and the embarrassment of Damon, who seemed endeavouring to extricate himself from the business as politely as possible without wounding her feelings. This delicacy and precaution, however, were unnecessary as upon her making an enquiry, which I could not hear, but which Damon seemed to answer with frankness, the Lady’s countenance immediately became expressive of anger and contempt, and she spoke in a louder and irritated tone — I clearly distinguished the words — “Deception”, “Income” and “Carriage” which made me suppose the difference had arisen on the score of wealth. She was fortunately however soon interrupted by the arrival of a party when they parted and separated. During this interview my attention had been occasionally diverted from the principal group to a person who kept peeping through the shop door, but had not the courage to open it. I thought for a long time he had a design upon the music, especially as he had a very hanging look, till I recollected he must be Mr Simpkin Slenderwit, fresh from Green Lettuce Lane.
Sometime after the Advertising Lady and her gentle swain had taken their departure, a servant belonging to the West Indian came to see if there were any ladies in the shop and if any had been there, he having been too indolent to come himself but had sent his servant as soon as he awoke.
Thus ended the adventures of this memorable day which I shall ever consider as one of the most agreeable I ever spent though it frequently demanded my utmost Powers of Face to forbear betraying myself. The pleasure I received from it will be considerably augmented should this imperfect account be fortunate enough to meet with the approbation of the A.S.
I am madam
Your most obd.