A Moral Tale

Miss Vardill

The guests were gone, the tables clos’d,
Fair Ellen’s eyes in sleep repos’d;
When Oberon with besom light
Came forth to seek the spoils of night;
He swept above, below, & round — 
Till lo! a sable glove was found!
“What’s this (the elfin sprite exclaim’d)
Is this a pledge for Ellen fram’d?
On nights like these I hop’d to find
A token of more gallant kind;
Such gifts as playful fairies leave
On sainted morn or festal eve;
A crystal cup, a magic ring
A tribute fit for bards to bring —
But what beneath the moon could move
A knight to drop a sable glove?
A glove of lambskin or of kid
Had better grac’d this attic lid!”

Thron’d on the bookstand’s topmost shelf
Titania heard the murm’ring elf
And “Well! (she cried) my lord, I pray,
Employ tonight your sov’reign sway
Transform this glove to something fit
To please a poetess and wit.”
“My princess,” said the fairy chief,
“Your wisdom gives my soul relief:
But tho’ with spells and magic strange,
My pow’r this sable glove may change;
When midnight claims her silent reign
The glove will turn to black again!”

Then Oberon with potent wand
First bade the ebon glove expand;
It grows, transform’d by art divine,
A sheet of foolscap, superfine;
Hot-press’d and folded in the style
Which wins an attic nymph to smile:
Next with a sparrow’s softest quill
The fairy monarch shows his skill — 
A tale he writes of city-prigs,
Of bankers, partnerships and gigs;
Of spinsters, consoles, love and law,
And cash-accounts without a flaw.
With perfume from the musk-rose pale
He scents and sanctifies the tale:
Wax from Grimalkin’s ear her steals,
A buzzard’s crest the secret seals;
The glove has disappear’d — and lo!
’Tis now a letter from a beau!

Safe in the sacred Chest it rests
Till gracious Ellen hails her guests.
The wondrous letter all admier,
So gay, so apt, so full of fire!
So well perfum’d, so wisely writ,
Such truth, such logic, and such wit!
But how can Spinsters hope to fix
A Bond Street beau of twenty-six?
Well! as a treasurer and pleader
Squire “Ledger-Scamper” must succeed here!

Aghast the rival suitors gaze
In list’ning fear and dumb amaze!
Delirious dreams their fancies seize
Of libels, nonsuits, costs and fees:
But on the “Templar’s” conscious cheek
Mirth sat in dimples sly and sleek.
Hid in the partial curtain’s shade
He lurk’d behind the attic maid,
And grasp’d, with fingers apt and bold,
The envied letter’s fragrant fold.
Safe in his coat’s capacious side
He flies the felon-prize to hide;
Then calls his coach in spleenful haste
The banquet of revenge to taste.

St Paul’s church-bell, with awful strok,
Has once the dreary silence broke!
’Midst tape and quills the templar sits,
Collects his law and calls his wits,
With pleas, rejoinders, and demurrers
To cool a Bond Street rival’s furors.
But see! — the letter changes shape — 
The paper is transform’d to crape!
His eyes the metamorphose scan — 
He only sees a mourning fan!

Hark! hark! the clock has struck — he spies
King Oberon before him rise:
His robe a cobweb and his crown
A king-cup lin’d with thistel-down:
His shield a beetle’s leathern wing,
His lance an infant hornet’s sting.
“Sir Allcourt Anyside!” he cries,
“Receive my counsel and be wise!
The fan’s mysterious valves unfold,
An emblem of thyself behold.
Mere engine of a lady’s sport
To frisk and flutter in a court!
But let that fan’s funereal dye
A warning to they wit supply — 
Thus ridicule, when mirth is past,
Turns to a worthless toy at last;
Awhile to hide its sable hue
Is all that fairy wit can do;
And soon the busy hand shall find
It leaves a badge of grief behind!”

Cassandra Croaker