Sir William Twyford had gained great credit with lord Martin by his conduct in the affair of Mr. Prettyman. He now imagined that he saw an opening for the exercise of his humour, which he was never able to refill. He communicated his plan to lord Martin. By his assistance he procured that implement, which school-boys have denominated a cracker. This his lordship found an opportunity of attaching to the skirt of Miss Cranley’s sack. At the moment we have described, when she was again going to enter into the stream of her rhetoric, which, great as it naturally was, was now somewhat improved with copious draughts of claret, the cracker was set on fire.
Poor Sophia now started in great agitation. “Bounce, bounce,” went the cracker. Sophia skipped and danced from one end of the room to the other. “Great gods of Rome,” exclaimed she, “Jupiter, Minerva, and all the celestial and infernal deities!” The force of the cracker was now somewhat spent. “Ye boys of Britain, that bear not one mark of manhood about you! Would Leonidas have fastened a squib to the robe of the Spartan mother? Would Cimber have so unworthily used Portia, the wife of Brutus? Would Corbulo thus have interrupted the heroic fortitude of Arria, the spouse of Thrasea Paetus?”
“My dear madam,” exclaimed lord Martin, his eyes glistening with triumph, “with all submission, Corbulo I believe had been assassinated, before Arria so gloriously put an end to her existence.” “Thou thing,” cried Miss Cranky, “and hast thou escaped the torrent of my invective! Thou eternal blot to the list, in which are inserted the names of a Faulkland, a Shaftesbury, a Somers, and above all, that Leicester, who so bravely threw the lie in the face of his sovereign!” “He! he!” cried lord Martin, who could no longer refrain from boasting of his great atchievement. If I have escaped your vengeance, let me tell you, madam, you have not escaped “mine.” “And was it thee, thou nincompoop? Hence, thou wretch! Avaunt! Begone, or thou shalt feel my fury!” Saying this, she clenched her fist, and closed her teeth, with so threatening an aspect, that the little peer was very much terrified. He flew back several paces. “My dear Miss Griskin,” said he, “protect me! This barbarous woman does not understand wit,”—and he precipitately burst out of the room. The lady too was so much discomposed, that she thought proper to retire, assuring the company that she would attend them again in a moment.
“Well,” cried Miss Griskin, as soon as she had disappeared, “this was the nicest fun!” “I was afraid,” said Miss Prim, “it would have discomposed Miss Cranley’s petticoats.” “Law, my dear!” said Miss Gawky, “by my so, I like the music of a cracker, better than all the concerts in the varsal world.” We need not inform our readers, that Miss Languish, in the very height and altitude of the confusion, had been obliged to retire.