A sad disaster befalls Sir Thomas Frippery in the night, and a worse in the day.
AND now that we have drawn the characters of so many people, let us look a little into their actions; for characters alone afford a very barren entertainment to the reader.
Our hero was grown a great favourite with the milliner, who presented him with a laced ruff, made in the newest fashion, worn by women of quality, and suffered him to play about the shop, where he was taken notice of by all the ladies, who came to traffic in fans and lace, and was often stroked by the fairest hands in London. In requital for these favours, he one night preserved the honour of his mistress from the attacks of a desperate ravisher, who came with a design of invading her bed.
The ancient knight, described in the last chapter, had, in his youth, been a man of some amour, and still retained a certain lickerish inclination, though he was narrowly watched by the jealousy of his wife. From the time of his last arrival in town, he had cast the languishing eyes of affection on the fair milliner with whom he lodged, and had been projecting many stratagems to accomplish his desires. He used frequently to call in at the shop, whenever he found the coast clear, under pretence of buying little presents for his wife or daughter, and there indulged himself in certain amorous freedoms, such as kisses, and the like, which would provoke her to cry out, 'Pray sir—don't Sir Thomas—I vow I'll call out, if you offer to be rude.' Inflamed with these little preliminaries, he once attempted a bolder deed; and though she repulsed him with great disdain, still he nourished hopes of success, and watched for a fair opportunity of making a second attempt.
One midnight, therefore, when his wife was fast asleep, he stole gently out of her bed, and with great softness proceeded downstairs, to find his way to that of her rival. But when he came to the door, unfortunately it was locked, and the noise he made against it awakened little Pompey, who lay watchful by his mistress's bedside. Instantly the dog took the alarm, and fell to barking with so much vehemence, that he roused his mistress, who started, and cried out, 'Who is there?' To this a gentle whispering voice replied, 'One—pray let me in.' The milliner, now no longer doubting but that her house was broke open by thieves, rang her bell with all her might, to summon people to her assistance, and Pompey seconded her with such outrageous fits of barking, that the amorous knight thought it high time to sheer off to his own bed. As he was groping his way upstairs in the dark, he ran against Jack Chace, who having heard the noise, was descending intrepidly in his shirt, to find out the cause of it. They were both exceedingly alarmed, and as Sir Thomas had some reasons for not speaking, Jack was obliged to begin the conference, which he did in the following words, 'What the devil have we got here?' Sir Thomas now finding himself under a necessity of replying, to prevent any farther discoveries, answered with a gentle voice, 'Hush, hush sir!—I have only been walking in my sleep, that's all—you'll alarm the the family, Mr. Chace! Hush, for god's sake, and let me return to my bed again.' This brought them to an eclaircissement, and Sir Thomas repeating a desire of returning to bed with as little noise as possible, Jack Chace lent him his hand, and they were almost arrived at the chamber-door, when the maid, who had risen at the sound of her mistress's bell, and with her tinder-box struck a light, met the noble pair in their shirts, on the top of the stair-case. She immediately screamed out, dropped her candle, and ran back to her garret with the utmost precipitation. Miss Frippery, who had long ago heard the noise, and lay trembling in her little bed, expecting every moment some house-breaker to appear and cut her throat, now began to be revived a little at the sound of her father's voice, whom she heard talking with Mr. Chace, and took courage to call out from her cabin, 'Heavens, papa! What is the matter, papa?' By this time, the worthy knight was arrived at his bed-side, and finding his wife asleep, blessed his stars for being so favourable to him, and then putting his head into the closet where his daughter lay, desired her not to wake her mother with any noise, adding, 'I have only been walking in my sleep, my dear! That's all; and Mr. Chace has been so kind to conduct me back again to my bed.' So saying, he deposited himself once more by the side of his sleeping spouse, whose gentle slumbers not all the noise in the house had been able to disturb.
'Tis well observed, that misfortunes never come single, and what happened to Sir Thomas Frippery will confirm this ancient maxim; for the disgrace he suffered in the night, was followed by a more disastrous accident the ensuing day.
Out of compliment to Jack Chace, who was then laying close siege to his daughter, our knight had consented to make a party to Ruckholt-house, which was at that time the fashionable resort of all idle people, who thought it worthwhile to travel ten miles for a breakfast. Sir Thomas, and his lady, went in a hired chariot, and the lovers shone forth in a most exalted phaeton, which looked down with scorn on all inferior equipages, and seemed like the Triumphal Car of Folly. But alas! The expedition set out under the influence of some evil star, and fortune seemed to take a pleasure in persecuting them with mischances all the day long. Sir Thomas had not long been landed at Ruckholt, before he found himself afflicted on a sudden with a most violent fit of the colic; and the agitation of his bowels so distorted the features of his face, that his companions, began to think him angry with them, and begged pardon is they had offended him. 'Zounds, cried he, I have got the colic to such a degree, that I am ready to die; and 'tis so long since I have been at any of these youthful places of gaiety, that I know not where to go for relief.' Jack Chace could not help laughing at the distresses of his future father-in-law, but conducted him, however, to one of the temples of the goddess Cloacina, whose altars are more constantly and universally attended, than those of any other deity. Here he was entering with great rapidity, when, to his surprise, he found two female votaries already in possession of the temple; and 'tis an inviolable law in the Alcoran of this goddess, as it was formerly in the ceremonies of the Bona Dea, that the two sexes shall never communicate in worship at the same time. This put our knight into the strangest confusion, and he was obliged to retire, muttering to himself, that women were always in the way. The consequences of this disappointment I forbear to mention; only I cannot help lamenting, that statesmen should be as subject to the gripes as inferior mortals; for I make no doubt, but the greatest politicians have been sometimes invaded with this disease in the most critical junctures, and the business of the nation suspended, 'till a minister could return from his close-stool.
As the party was returning home, Jack Chace, desirous of showing his coachmanship to the young lady, whirled so rapidly round the corner of a street, that he overturned the chaise, and it was next to a miracle that they escaped with their lives. But luckily the future bride received no other damage, than spoiling her best silk night-gown (which I mention as a warning to all young ladies, how they trust themselves with gentlemen in high chaises) and little Pompey, who was in her lap, came with great dexterity upon his feet. The driver himself indeed lost his ear, which was torn off by the wheel in his fall; but this he esteemed a wound of honour, and boasted of it as much as disabled soldiers do of the loss of their legs and arms. As for Sir Thomas, he entirely disclaimed Ruckholt for the remaining part of his life, which he swore abounded with perils and dangers, and declared with much importance, that there was no such place in being, when he and Lord Ofsord were at the helm of affairs.