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Sunday, 23 December 2012

ESAH Sunday Series: Even more Dinner Party stories

A selection of stories written down in 1881.

Sir John Firebrace

There is a good story of Sir John Firebrace or rather his family and friends.  On the arrival to his house of a son and heir there was naturally a great gathering together of female relatives and friends all of whom vied with one another to obtain the first glimpse of the darling.  The nurses, however, found these visits to be so detrimental to the healthy progress of the child that they devised a cunning and wily scheme.  They obtained a monkey which they dressed up in baby toggery and placed him in a berceaunette. This pseudo-infant the ladies were invited in shoals to come and admire, and as the room was darkened – nominally, for the welfare of the babe – many came and went without suspecting any treachery.  One visitor, however, at last fairly raised a guffaw among the watchers by crying out in tones of unsuppressed admiration, “Bless the little creature, what a darling he is; and the very image of his father!”

Le Dejuener

There was a story of two Frenchmen at a London coffee house which used to be told after this fashion.  One afternoon a Frenchman strolled into one of the London coffee houses, and was accosted by the waiter who inquired of him in the usual way what he would take for dinner.  He gave no definite order, but merely answered the waiter “Vat you please!”  The waiter, thinking he had met with a man with free and generous disposition, took care, for the honour of the house, to supply the stranger with the best of everything, soups, fish, entrees, joints, sweets etc all came in due course dished up in the choicest manner.  At last the waiter brought on a silver tray the most costly article of all – the bill.  This to his astonishment the Frenchman refused to pay, saying that he had ordered nothing, and that the waiter had been supplying him with luxuries according to his own sweet will, he himself having merely replied to his solicitations “Vat you please”.  Nothing could be done, the landlord scolded the waiter behind the scenes, but let the Frenchman go, telling the waiter at the same time to let him know should any more of these Mounseers present themselves.  Shortly after, Frenchman No 2, hearing of the success of his fellow countryman, came to the same coffee house, and seating himself down replied to the waiter’s inquiries after the same manner – “Vat you please”.  The waiter hurried off as if to order in the courses as before, and soon returned, not with choice meals, but with his master who learning that there was “another of them Vat-you-pleases” in the coffee room, had taken down his largest hunting whip, and was prepared to take summary vengeance.  The end was a rapid flight of the foreigner.


Overloading a man with ornaments when he is in want of the bare necessities of life may be illustrated by the story of Mr Palmer, sometime Rector of Little Laver, in Essex, who sent an old woman in his parish a quantity of horse-radish, but omitted to send the beef.  In justice to Mr Palmer it is suggested that the old lady was basely endeavouring to obtain beef when she declared that she was so excessively fond of horseradish, and that the good Rector saw through her little game, and took her at her word.

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