The dinner was soon announced; the cookery was plain, but good, the wine excellent. When the dessert was placed on the table, Mr John Forster rose, and taking two bottles of port-wine from the side-board, placed them on the table, and addressed Newton.
“Nephew, I have no time to sip wine, although it is necessary that I drink it. Now, we must drink fast, as I have only ten minutes to spare; not that I wish you to drink more than you like, but I must push the bottle round, whether you fill or no, as I have an appointment, what we call a consultation, at my chambers. Pass the bottle, brother,” continued the lawyer, helping himself, and shoving the decanter to Nicholas.
Nicholas, who had been little accustomed to wine, obeyed mechanically, swallowing down each glass a gorge deployee, as he was awoke from his meditations by the return of the bottle, and then filling up his glass again. Newton, who could take his allowance as well as most people, could not, however, venture to drink glass for glass with his uncle, and the bottle was passed several times without his filling. When the ten minutes had elapsed, Mr John Forster took his watch from the table, replaced it in his fob, and rose from his chair. Locking up the remainder of the wine, he quitted the house without apology, leaving his guests to entertain themselves, and order tea when they felt inclined.
“My brother seems to be very busy, Newton,” observed Nicholas. “What wine was that we have been drinking? It was very strong; I declare my head turns round;” and in a few moments more Nicholas dropped his head upon the table, and was fast asleep.
Newton, who perceived that his father was affected by the wine which he had been drinking, which was, in the sum total, a pint of sherry at the coffee-house before dinner, and at least a bottle during and after his meal, thought it better that he should be allowed to take his nap. He therefore put out the candles, and went up into the drawing-room, where he amused himself with a book until the clock struck twelve. According to the regulations of the house, the servants had retired to bed, leaving a light in the passage for their master on his return, which sometimes was at a very late hour, or rather, it should be said, at a very early one. Newton lighted a chamber-candlestick, and went down into the parlour to rouse his father; but all his attempts were in vain. The wine had taken such an effect upon him, that he was in a state of lethargy. Newton observed that the servant had cleared the table, and that the fire was out: and, as there was no help for it, he removed the chairs to the end of the room, that his father might not tumble over them if he awoke in the dark, and then retired to his own bed.
“Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee.”