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Sunday, 16 December 2012

ESAH Sunday Series: More Dinner Party Stories

These stories originate from the early nineteenth century, and were recorded in a family book  in 1881 by Revd. EHL Reeve.

Gooseberries

There was a favourite story of Capt. Reeve’s connected with Mrs Strutt, some relation or other of Lord Raleigh.  This good lady was sauntering round her garden one day when she came across her gardener and his little boy.  The boy of course was tongue-tied in the presence of his betters, as such boys have always the happy way of being, more especially when asked a question.  In order to encourage him, Mrs Strutt put a handful of gooseberries in his hand which she had been gathering.  The boy muttered his thanks, but did not make the best bow as the occasion seemed to require.  His father noticed this, and being very particular in bringing up his children in the right way, inquired of his son somewhat sharply “why did he not take off his hat to Madam Strutt”.  On the boy making no reply his father took summary measures with him, and knocked off his hat, when the cause of his tardiness became known.  His hat was full to the crown with gooseberries.

Terra firma

There is a story of a gentleman who on one occasion paid a visit (and only a visit) to a lunatic asylum.  While he was looking round the wards he was accosted by three or four of the unhappy inmates, who conducted him to the edge of a landing some feet off the ground and threatened to push him over.  Our friend saw that argument would avail but little with these bold spirits so he bethought him, with great presence of mind, of a plan which should, while seeming to meet them upon their own ground, be the means of placing him with a whole skin on “terra firma”.  He assured them that the leap down was a mere trifle: if they would let me go quietly he would show them something yet more wonderful: he would leap up again.  So they let him go; and, on the principle that all is fair in war he broke his word which he seemed to value less than his neck, and made off.

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