« AnteriorContinuar »
tions about the disposal of her baby and the gossiping of it, is turned into inward reflection and melancholy."
He would have gone on in this tender way when the good lady entered, and with an inexpressible sweetness in her countenance told us, she had been searching her closet for something very good, to treat such an old friend as I was. Her husband's eyes sparkled with pleasure at the cheerfulness of her countenance, and I saw all his fears vanish in an instant, The lady observing something in our looks which shewed we had been more serious than ordinary, and seeing her husband receive her with great concern under a forced cheerfulness, immediately guessed at what we had been talking of; and applying herself to me, faid, with a smile, “Mr. Bickerstaff, don't believe a word of what he tells you, I shall still live to have my second, as I have often promised you, unless he takes more care of himself than he has done since his coming
You must know he tells me that he finds London is a much more healthy place than the country, for he fees several of his old acquaintance and schoolfellows are here, young fellows with fair full-bottomed periwigs. I could fcarce keep him this morning from going out open-breasted.” My friend, who is always extremely delighted with her agreeable humour, made her fit down with us. She did it with that easiness which is peculiar to women of sense; and to keep up. the good humour The had brought in with her, turned her raillery upon me. “Mr. Bickerstaff, you remember you followed me one night from the play-house, supposing you should carry me thither to-morrow night, and lead me into the front-box.” This put us into a long field of discourse about the beauties, who were mothers to the present, and shined in the boxes twenty years ago. I told her I was glad she had transferred so many of her charms, and I did not question but her eldest daughter was within half a year of being a toast.
We were pleasing ourselves with this fantastical preferment of the young lady, when on a sudden we were alarmed with the noise of a drum, and immediately entered my little godson to give me a point of war. His mother, between laughing and chiding, would have put him out of the room, but I would
not part with him so. I found upon conversation with him, though he was a little noisy in his mirth, that the child had excellent
parts, and was a great master of all the learning on t'other side eight years old. I perceived him a very great historian in Æsop's fables : but he frankly declared to me his mind, that he did not delight in that learning, because he did not believe they were true; for which reason I found he had very
much turned his studies for about a twelvemonth past, into the lives and adventures of Don Bellianis of Greece, Guy of Warwick, the Seven Champions, and other historians of that age. I could not but observe the satisfaction the father took in the forwardness of his fon; and that these diversions might turn to some profit, I found the boy had made remarks, which might be of service to him during the course of his whole life. He would tell you the mismanagements of John Hickathrift, find fault with the passionate temper in Bevis of Southampton, and loved St. George for being the champion of England, and by this means had his thoughts insensibly moulded into the notions of discretion, virtue, and honour. was extolling his accomplishments, when the mother told me, that the little girl who led me in this morning was, in her way, a better fcholar than he.
“Betty,” fays she, “deals chiefly in fairies and sprites, and sometimes, in a winter-night, will terrify the maids with her accounts till they are afraid to go up to bed.”
I fat with them till it was very late, sometimes in merry, sometimes in serious discourse, with this particular pleasure, which gives the only true relish to all conversation, a sense that every one of us liked each other. I went home confidering the different conditions of a married life and that of bachelor; and I must confess it struck me with a secret concern to reflect that whenever I go off I shall leave no traces behind me.
In this pensive mood I returned to my familythat is to say, to my maid, my dog, and my cat, who only can be the better or worse for what may happen to me.
WAS walking about my chamber this morning in a
some account of in my paper of the 17th of the last month. I felt a sensible pleasure rising in me at the fight of him, my acquaintance having begun with his father, when he was just such a stripling, and about that very age. When he came up to me, he took me by the hand and burst out in tears. I was extremely moved, and immediately said, “Child, how does your father do?” He began to reply, “My mother” -but could not go on for weeping. I went down with him into the coach, and gathered out of him, that his mother was then dying, and that while the holy man was doing the last offices to her, he had taken that time to come and call me to his father, who, he said, would certainly break his heart if I did not go and comfort him. The child's discretion in coming to me of his own head, and the tenderness he showed for his parents, would have quite overpowered me, had I not resolved to fortify myself for the seasonable performances of those duties which I owed to my friend. were going, I could not but reflect upon the character of that excellent woman, and the greatness of his grief for the lofs of one who has ever been the support to him under all other afflictions. How (thought I) will he be able to bear the hour of her death, that could not when I was lately with him, speak
of a sickness which was then past, without forrow. We were now got pretty far into Westminster, and arrived at my friend's house. At the door of it I met Favonius, not without a secret satisfaction to find he had been there. I had formerly conversed with him at his house; and as he abounds with that sort of virtue and knowledge which makes religion beautiful, and never leads the conversation into the violence and rage of party disputes, I listened to him with great pleasure. Our difcourse chanced to be upon the subject of death, which he treated with such a strength of reason and greatness of soul, that, instead of being terrible, it appeared to a mind rightly cultivated, altogether to be contemned, or rather to be desired. As I met him at the door, I saw in his face a certain glowing of grief and humanity, heightened with an air of fortitude and resolution, which, as I afterwards found, had such an irrestible force as to fufpend the pains of the dying, and the lamentation of the nearest friends who attended her. I went up directly to the room where she lay, and was met at the entrance by my friend, who, notwithstanding his thoughts had been composed a little before, at the sight of me, turned away his face and wept. The little family of children renewed the expressions of their forrow, according to their several ages and degrees of understanding. The eldest daughter was in tears, busied in attendance upon her mother; others were kneeling about the bed-side: and what troubled me most was, to see a little boy who was too young to know the reason, weeping only because his sisters did. The only one in the room who seemed resigned and comforted, was the dying perfon. At my approach to the bed-side, she told me, with a low, broken voice, “ This is kindly done
-Take care of friend- -Do not go from him.” She had before taken leave of her husband and children, in a manner proper for so solemn a parting, and with a gracefulness peculiar to a woman of her character. My heart was torn in pieces to see the husband on one side suppressing and keeping down the swellings of his grief, for fear of disturbing her in her last moments, and the wife even at that time concealing the pains the endured, for fear of increasing his affliction. She kept her eyes upon him for some
moments after she grew speechless, and soon after closed them for ever.
In the moment of her departure, my friend (who had thus far commanded himself) gave a deep groan and fell into a swoon by her bed-side. The distraction of the children, who thought they saw both their parents expiring together, and now lying dead before them, would have melted the hardest heart; but they soon perceived their father recover, whom I helped to remove into another room, with a resolution to accompany him till the first pangs of his affliction were abated. I knew consolation would now be impertinent, and therefore contented myself to sit by him and condole with him in silence ; for I shall here use the method of an ancient author, who, in one of his epistles, relating the virtues and death of Macrinus's wife, expresses himself thus: “I shall suspend my advice to this best of friends, till he is made capable of receiving it by those three great remedies, necessitas ipsa, dies longa, & satietas doloris, the necessity of submission, length of time, and satiety of grief.”
In the meantime, I cannot but consider with much commiseration, the melancholy state of one who has had such a part of himself torn from him, and which he misses in every
circumstance of life. His condition is like that of one who has lately lost his right arm, and is every moment offering to help himself with it. He does not appear to himself the same person in his house, at his table, in company, or in retirement; and loses the relish of all the pleasures and diversions that were before entertaining to him by her participation of them. The most agreeable objects recall the sorrow for her with whom he used to enjoy them. This additional satisfaction, from the taste of pleasures in the society of one we love, is admirably described in Milton, who represents Eve, though in Paradise itself, no farther pleased with the beautiful objects around her, than as she sees them in company with Adam, in that passage so inexpressibly charming :
With thee conversing, I forget all time,
All seasons, and their change ; all please alike.