5. The reader may guess at the figure I made, after having done all this mischief. I dispatched my dinner as soon as I could, with my usual taciturnity; when, to my utter confusion, the lady seeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying across one another upon my plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side.
6. What the absurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I suppose there was some traditionary superstition in it; and therefore, in obedience to the lady of the house, I disposed of my knife and fork in two parallel lines, which is a figure I shall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reason for it.
7. It is not difficult to a man to see that a person has conceived an aversion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, by the lady’s looks, that she regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect; for which reason I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings.
8. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend these superstitious follies of mankind: how they subject us to imaginary afflictions and additional sorrows that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not sufficient for it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes, and suffer as much from trifling accidents, as from real evils.
9. I have known the shooting of a star spoil a night’s rest; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lose his appetite, upon the plucking of a merry-thought. A screech owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers; nay, the voice of a cricket hath struck more terror than the roaring of a lion.
10. There is nothing so inconsiderable, which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognostics. A rusty nail, or crooked pin, shoot up into prodigies.
11. I remember I was once in a mixt assembly, that was full of noise and mirth, when on a sudden an old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company. This remark struck a panic terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, instead of portending one of the company should die, it plainly foretold one of them should be born. Had not my friend found out this expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen sick that very night.
12. An old maid, that is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of these antiquated Sibyls, that forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions, and hearing dead-watches; and was the other day almost frightened out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ache.