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reminded them that it was time to prepare for the evening party.
Anna blushed when she heard that the hair-dresser was actually arrived; however, in this point she thought it best to submit: and so, going up to her room, she sat down very patiently to undergo the required operation. After having paid and dismissed the man, she dressed herself as neatly as she could; and scarcely had she finished this task, when her two young friends entered the room, the one prepared for a fashionable party abroad, and the other for a party of another description at home.
Anna had seldom seen so gay a figure as Jane presented, and it did not a little amuse that giddy girl to read in Anna's eyes certain indications of amazement at parts of her costume which did not quite suit Anna's old-fashioned ideas of decorum. Miss Parker, having complimented Anna's hair-dresser, and blamed her dress-maker, now told her that her mother would be glad to enjoy her company till the party should assemble; and accordingly Anna went into Mrs. Parker's dressing-room, accompanied by Miss Jane, who remained with them till informed that the sedan-chair was come to convey her to her party.
Anna found Mrs. Parker looking very dull, and even dejected; and when that lady complained of low spirits, she ventured to ask her if she did not spend too much time alone.
Mrs. Parker sighed, and answered, that she had long been used to be left alone.
Anna begged that she would permit her to spend that evening, at least, with her.
“ No, no,” replied Mrs. Parker, fretfully; “I will not punish you : I know that young people like company."
Indeed, Madam,” said Anna, “I have lived too long in retirement to care much for company; and I should have particular pleasure in spending this evening with you."
“ You are very good and very polite,” said Mrs. Parker; “ and I wish my daughters bad a little of your consideration. As to Jane, she is very young, and, although fond of gaieties, like most young people of her
age, yet she has more time to give me than Charlotte has; and, while sitting with me, she is good-humoured and entertaining. But Charlotte is continually dictating to me, as if I were a child; indeed, she treats me as if I were a perfect idiot, and totally ignorant on some certain subjects: and yet I see no particular good which she herself derives from any of her new notions.” And then the old lady burst forth into such an unqualified censure of all religious characters, as we not unfrequently hear from worldly persons who have been unfortunate in their connexions of this nature.
But, as Anna knew that Mrs. Parker had always been considered what is called an odd-tempered woman, she determined to observe more of what passed between the mother and daughters before she ventured to judge between them even in her own mind. The conversation, however, having taken this turn, she was not sorry that Mrs. Parker would not permit her to stay with her the remainder of the evening.
When the larger part of the expected company were assembled in the drawing-room, Miss Charlotte came up herself to lead down her friend, and introduce her to the party.
On the opening of the door, Anna, who had been in a kind of continued amazement all day, was not a little dazzled and astonished by the blaze of light, the number of persons assembled, the splendour of the room, and the elegance of the dresses, which all broke upon her view at once in this assembly, an assembly which she had pictured to herself as consisting, for the most part, of
grave and sedate personages, clothed, at best, like her good friend Mrs. Mills in her Sunday gown. She had not, however, much time for reflection, being led forward and presented by name to the company at large, and then particularly introduced to Mrs. Humphreys, who was seated on a sofa in the most conspicuous part of the room.
Mrs. Humphreys received Anna with the most marked politeness, took her hand, made room for her on the sofa by her side, and introduced her to the lady that sat next her as a young person who, with the holy zeal of a martyr, had sacrificed all earthly pleasures, in order to devote herself to the most exemplary fulfilment of her filial duties.
Anna could hardly help asking herself if Mrs. Humphreys did not mistake her for some other person: and when convinced that Mrs. Humphreys knew very well of whom she was speaking, she felt assured that there must have been some strange misstatement of her character brought to L-; since she could not recollect
one single action of her life in which she had acted as a Christian heroine, although she remembered many occasions on which her conduct had been grossly unkind and ungrateful to her parents. But while she was considering whether she ought not to attempt to set Mrs. Humphreys right upon this subject, her embarrassment was increased by perceiving that she was at that moment furnishing a subject of discourse to most persons in the room, as might easily be understood by their significant looks and whispers. She was therefore much relieved, when Mrs. Humphreys, addressing herself to Miss Parker, enquired if they were not to have the pleasure of their dear minister's company that afternoon?
Miss Parker answered, that he had certainly promised to come; but he had begged her not to wait tea for him, as his time was never at his own command.
Several persons now echoed Mrs. Humphreys's voice, who had just expressed her fears that their beloved pastor would ruin his constitution by his labours; adding, that no man could, uninjured, long support such a round of duties, or answer constant calls
his me. Many voices were instantly raised in admiration and pity of this excellent man, whom all represented as undergoing, in addition to his labours mental and bodily, the severest persecutions which the enemies of religion could inflict. And so touching were the outlines which these good people drew of their beloved minister, that Anna, whose imagination had been very busily and very injudiciously at work during the whole of the day, had just finished a picture in her own fancy of this respectable pastor, in which she had blended together such symptoms of suffering and Christian resignation as one should naturally expect to discover in a portrait of David Brainerd or the venerable Swartz, when a loud rap at the street-door was the immediate forerunner of a brisk step in the hall, which speedily brought into the
room a well-looking, ruddy, boyish-faced young man, in a genteel clerical dress.
The joy expressed by the greater part of the company at the appearance of this young pastor brought up some old-fashioned blushes into Anna's face, particularly as some of the ladies who expressed so much delight were quite as young as herself, and therefore could not claim the privilege of years for their freedom of manner.
In the mean time, Mr. Burton, (for such was the name of the young clergyman in question,) politely refusing several chairs offered to him in different parts of the room, stepped up to Miss Parker and Mrs. Humphreys, who were sitting near together; and having paid the usual compliments, was going to sit down quietly, when Mrs. Humphreys called him to account for being so late.
To which he made answer, that his time was not at his command; and that his calls were so numerous, that he hardly knew in what way to answer the one half of them; but that he could not deny himself the pleasure of joining the present party, " although," added he, in a whisper to Mrs. Humphreys, “I shall be obliged to sit up half the night in consequence.”
Mrs. Humphreys immediately repeated his whisper aloud to Miss Parker; adding, that she hoped Miss Parker was sensible of the favour done her party by Mr. Burton's presence among them. And then, without waiting for the young lady's answer, she proceeded gravely to caution the young clergyman against over exertion in the way of duty, telling him how many persons had ruined their health in order to embrace a larger field of usefulness, and beseeching him particularly not to deprive himself of his rest at night.
She spoke so largely on these subjects, that Anna, who had been kept in a state of amazement all the day, could not help looking up again to the young gentleman's face, to see if she could observe there any symptoms of fatigue or lassitude. But the placid and blooming appearance of the supposed sufferer, and the liveliness of his eye, induced her to imagine, that his labours and trials, like her own, had only existed in Mrs. Humphreys's imagination, and that the young man had not more to do than what conduced to his health and the promotion of his robust appearance. She was soon,
however, disturbed from her quiet reflections on this subject, by Mrs. Humphreys requesting that she might have the pleasure of introducing their dear minister to Miss Williams; adding, that Mr. Burton was already fully acquainted with her piety, her filial affection, and all the trials to which she had been called, as well as the wonderful manner in which she had been supported through them.
Anna had no time to recover from the confusion into which she was thrown by this sudden address, before she found it necessary to answer the bows and polite speeches of the young clergyman, who, being thus called upon by Mrs. Humphreys, thought it incumbent upon him to say something civil to the young stranger, particularly as her appearance was agreeable, modest, and unaffected, and such as is generally looked upon with respect if not with admiration.
The tea-table being arranged, and Miss Parker placed at it, with several of her young companions to assist her, Mr. Burton was making his escape towards it, when Mrs. Humphreys, addressing him again, said, that she had another subject of complaint against him, and that she must call upon him, in the name of all the company present, to defend himself. “This heavy charge," said
, Mrs. Humphreys, “is, that you left us last Sunday, and
, placed a stranger in your pulpit. Now,” added she, “we all protest against a repetition of this offence."
Indeed we do," repeated many voices. “We shall be very angry if you make such an arrangement again without having just cause,” said Mrs. Humphreys.
“ But," said Mr. Burton, “the gentleman who took my place is one of the first preachers in the county!” "First or last,” said Mrs. Humphreys,
will decidedly not allow of any exchanges of the kind. So beware of a second offence."
But,” said a young lady, who had risen from her chair at the other end of the room on the first opening of this cause, and walked up quite close to Mr. Burton, “I am come to enter my protest against all monopolies. Are we poor starving creatures, who live at the other end of the town, and go to a church where the old curate preaches us all to sleep, are we quite to be shut