Sunday, 11 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

“A Fact”

Ensign W soon after he joined his Regiment at Liverpool, was passing through a very retired Street or rather Lane, and was caught in a pelting storm of hail and rain.  In order to save his Regimental Coat, for he could ill afford to buy another, he took shelter under a Wall immediately opposite a most dingy looking House, in which resided an old gentleman, who had retired from trade with a very large fortune, his only child a daughter living with him.  If there was any person in the World he disliked the most, it was a Military Man, always entertaining the idea, that some Rattle Cap of a Fortune Hunter might one day, or night endeavour to elope, with the only joy of his heart, his favourite daughter Eliza.  The Ensign had not remained but a short time under the Wall, before the young lady spied him out, and called her father to witness the piteous situation of the stranger, and endeavoured to persuade her father to offer an umbrella.  After a great deal of cunning she prevailed.  When he mentioned his morning adventure at Mess, his brother officers all called out, “depend upon it my good fellow, your fortune is made, for in that very house you have described lives an old Screw, whose daughter will possess many thousand charms when the old fellow kicks the bucket”.  They all advised him that on no account to send the Umbrella back, but to carry it himself, which he did.  He experienced great difficulty in obtaining an entry, but made himself so excessively agreeable, in expressing thanks, that the old gentleman invited him to dinner if he would condescend to join his dinner table at the early hour of two o’clock.  At ¼ before two the happy Ensign in full Regimentals and Review Order made his appearance.  No heiress however made her appearance but he took care to observe, the table was prepared for number 3, and at the three sat down to a very plain dinner.  Wine it has always been said does wonders, and the Evening was spent in a manner very agreeable to all parties present, the old gentleman as well as his daughter quite delighted with their unexpected guest, who in the course of a short period became his Son in Law, but, upon one express stipulation, that he would, upon his marriage, resign his conscription in the Army.

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