Pertinax Townly to the Editor

Miss Vardill

O Mr Editor! Positive House is haunted by Phantoms as substantial as those that formerly pommelled Don Quixote! But you shall hear my story. Yesterday morning Lady Olivia produced what I thought no very equivocal invitation to meet her at twilight in the shrubbery — I enclose the song for your judgement. I obeyed the call and followed her, as I thought, into the summerhouse which Electromagus has converted into a kind of auxiliary study. An invisible hand instantly bolted the door and I found myself a prisoner alone and in total darkness. I had little time to devise means of escape ere insufferable heat assailed me. I began almost to think myself in Tartarus: certain I am that Dr Solander and Sr. Wm. Fordyce in their memorable experiment to ascertain the heat the human body is capable of sustaining, when water boiled spontaneously on its introduction to the chamber, when an egg was roasted and a beefsteak broiled by the mere heat of the atmosphere. I am sure they never endured so exalted a temperature as that to which I was exposed. At length it abated, when suddenly by dim light, appeared the form of Electromagus who, taking me for a robber would have deprived me of the power of telling my story, had I not adroitly availed myself of the cushion against the tempest of blows which assailed me. Perceiving the door open, I sprang out and hastened home as fast as the darkness would permit. But what was my surprise on entering the drawing room, to perceive Mrs Bustleton with Lady Olivia, Electromagus and Philemon deep in a rubber! And Atticus intent on Rodelinda’s drawings of Lake of Lausanne in which her Philander is introduced, like the celebrated Discobolos, in all the stages of throwing the pebble which made such deep impression on her heart! What could this mean? The whist-players were near the end of their rubber, and even Atticus appeared to have been long engaged with the drawings. “Where have you hid yourself, Sir Pertinax?” said he. “The ladies have all been asking for you, and your absence has actually forced them into a rubber as a refuge from ennui!” I replied carelessly, that I had been looking at the moon. “She is in her first quarter,” exclaimed Electromagus, “and set two hours ago!” — “Oh!” added Lady Olivia, “Sir Pertinax has only been, like an Eastern lover, courting an invisible mistress.” — “Some mistresses are best invisible,” cried Mrs Bustleton. “If I was not dazzled by her beauty,” rejoined I, “at least I could not see the spots on her face.” This allusion was a little sarcastic, for Mrs. B. has not yet quite recovered the effects of the scene in the laboratory. She coloured and Philemon, who had just lost deal, looked blank but said nothing. “Is it not rather cold?” lisped Rodelinda. “No, madam,” I replied, “I found it sufficiently warm, and as the ladies present seem better acquainted with my adventures than myself, they may spare me the trouble of relating them.” — “How!” said Lady Olivia, “do you take us for witches?” — “Were I to judge from appearances,” observed I, gravely, “I should think the ladies of Positive House had other spells besides those of beauty!” So saying I left the room.

What am I to think of this adventure, Mr Editor? The tranquillity of the party seemed to prove that they could none of them have had any share in my discomfiture, and yet Lady Olivia’s remarks intimated a knowledge of it. But I cannot think she would play me such a trick; at any rate I shall appear to forget my injuries, and so perhaps discover their author.

I suppose you know Lord Aircastle is gone to town to consider the vagaries of a man who pretends to make featherbeds and straw mattresses of confined air. I wonder he does not propose building houses with it! That would be a bubble admirably suited to Lord Aircastle. You doubtless heard of the balloon disaster. Atticus most probably would give you an account of it at the same time with his complaint against me, for he was present at its descent. I have not time now, as we are summoned to the laboratory.

Yours most truly

Pertinax Townly

P.S. I am almost inclined to give up Lady Olivia for her dissimulation, could I only find any decent object to make her jealous of! When you have considered her song, pray read this copy of one of our Philemon’s fragments, that you my understand his way to win the sentimental triflers here. Poor things! Sighing over a defunct charmer is the cheapest and safest recommendation to another.[^1]

To x x x x x x x x x

So soon forgot! yet there is one
 Who would not blame a secret sigh
A thought from mirthful pastime won
 To grace thy long-passed obsequy!
The pages of thy hearse are gone,
 The plume has wav’d — the pall is roll’d
They give thee here a silent stone
 And deem the tale of mourning told.

They seek the song, the dance, the race
 To wear that tale of grief away —
I only see thy vacant place,
 And grieve at even Grief’s decay.
They wish the tongue of Mem’ry dumb,
 They shun the image and thy name;
But let the friend who loses me come
 And listen while I praise thy fame!

O! who can smile at living worth?
 The noblest is remember’d not:
O who would welcome Friendship’s birth
 When Friendship is so soon forgot!

[^1:] It would suit a male as well as a female friend, and I suppose he does as I do. Transferable verses are very convenient.