Word Count 680
Prompt 153 - Classic Lit (A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift)
Summary When she so chooses, Darla has no problem winning friends and influencing people.
Years later, when Darla was feeling impish, she prefaced her story with, “A Scotsman, an Irishman, a hunchback, and a genius walk into a bar.” It hadn’t been a bar, of course, and she had been the one to walk in, but it captured the tone of the meeting regardless.
Finding herself seated next to a Dr. Arbuthnot at a dinner one evening, she realized at once she had found something special. He seemed to be of a similar mind about her, and he was refreshingly more interested in hearing of her travels than admiring her dewy cheek. Perhaps it was the relative novelty of having an American as a dinner partner, but she suspected it was the even greater novelty of an intelligent man open to the idea of a pretty woman of intellect. She’d found such men before, though rarely. Far more common was the well-meaning man whose good intentions got all tangled in his appetites.
The good doctor did not appeal as a long-term companion, and had too many powerful friends who would miss him, besides. However, he might well be a charming friend over the next few years, should she keep up her present charade. She managed to make enough of an impression that she snared an invitation to a visiting party at the estate of his good friend, Mr. Pope.
She arrived rather late, as was her custom, and found that all the ladies had retired for the night. Though the housekeeper fussed about and insisted that she must be tired, Darla declared herself quite ready to meet her host. She was ushered into a pleasant, firelit library, where Dr. Arbuthnot was in convivial conversation with three other men. He leapt to his feet as soon as he saw her.
“Ah, Lady Graves. I am afraid you have stumbled into an impromptu meeting of the Martinus Scriblerus Club, and no one is safe.”
“Lively waters are indeed the most dangerous, Doctor. I often find myself wading into them, even so. I find it refreshing.”
He made introductions all around. Mr. Pope took pains to make sure she was comfortable, and she let him. The conversation resumed, with much disdain for the widespread misunderstanding of the Irish Problem, as outlined by Mr. Swift. She began to enjoy herself. Mr. Gay, Mr. Swift, Mr. Pope, and Dr. Arbuthnot had a quickness of mind and a willingness to find the dark humor in any situation that was sadly lacking in the stultifying circles of the well-born that she had lately cultivated.
The fire crackled, the level of the brandy in the decanter slowly lowered, and the laughter came often. Finally, she confided her solution to Mr. Swift. He was delighted, and declared her to be, by far, the most advanced thinker he had ever met.
“I would be drawn and quartered for making such a jest,” he declared. “But the temptation to do so is fearsome. You’ll be the death of me, my lady, but how I will enjoy it.”
She soon retired, and spent a most diverting visit with them all, even though her health wouldn’t allow her to walk out of doors in the autumn sunshine. She wasn’t the death of Mr. Swift, who was too much fun to kill and much too old to keep.
Mr. Swift traveled to England only seldom thereafter. She kept up her acquaintance with all the members of the Scriblerus Club. A few years later, the town was all astonishment at the pamphlet from Dublin, and she met with her friends and laughed at the scandal.
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
She thought she might eventually try Ireland, if such men were to be found there. And she hadn’t been kidding about the succulence of yearling children, either.