« AnteriorContinua »
song: it was a common saying in our country, that the family of the Blenkinsops could never look straight before them, nor the Hugginsons blow out a candle; that there were none of the Grograms but could sing a song, or of the Marjorams but could tell a story."- "However that be," cried I," the most vulgar ballad of them all generally pleases me better than the fine modern odes, and things that petrify us in a single stanza, — productions that we at once detest and praise.-Put the glass to your brother, Moses.The great fault of these elegiasts is, that they are in despair for griefs that give the sensible part of mankind very little pain. A lady loses her muff, her fan, or her lap-dog, and so the silly poet runs home to versify the disaster."
"That may be the mode," cried Moses, "in sublimer compositions but the Ranelagh songs that come down to us are perfectly familiar, and all cast in the same mould : Colin meets Dolly, and they hold a dialogue together; he gives her a fairing to put in her hair, and she presents him with a nosegay; and then they go together to church, where they give good advice to young nymphs and swains to get married as fast as they can."
"And very good advice too," cried I; " and I am told there is not a place in the world where advice can be given with so much propriety as there : for as it persuades us to marry, it also furnishes us with a wife; and surely that must be an excellent market, my boy, where we are told what we want, and supplied with it when wanting."
"Yes, sir," returned Moses, " and I know but of two such markets for wives in Europe,-Ranelagh in England, and Fontarabia in Spain. The Spanish market is open once a-year; but our English wives are saleable every night."
"You are right, my boy," cried his mother; "Old England is the only place in the world for husbands to get wives.""And for wives to manage their husbands," interrupted I. "It is a proverb abroad, that if a bridge were built across the sea, all the ladies of the Continent would come over to take pattern from ours; for there are no such wives in Europe as our own. But let us have one bottle more, Deborah, my life; and Moses, give us a good song. What thanks do we not owe to Heaven for thus bestowing tranquillity, health, and competence! I think myself happier now than the greatest monarch upon earth. He has no
such fireside, nor sucn pleasant faces about it. Yes, Deborah, we are now growing old; but the evening of our life is likely to be happy. We are descended from ancestors that knew no stain, and we shall leave a good and virtuous race of children behind us. While we live, they will be our support and our pleasure here; and when we die, they will transmit our honour untainted to posterity. Come, my son, we wait for a song: let us have a chorus. But where is my darling Olivia? that little cherub's voice is always sweetest in the concert." Just as I spoke Dick came running in. "O papa, papa, she is gone from us, she is gone from us; my sister Livy is gone from us for ever!"-" Gone, child!" "Yes, she is gone off with two gentlemen in a post-chaise, and one of them kissed her, and said he would die for her: and she cried very much, and was for coming back; but he persuaded her again, and she went into the chaise, and said, "Oh, what will my poor papa do when he knows I am undone!'" Now, then," cried I," my children, go and be miserable; for we shall never enjoy one hour more. And oh, may Heaven's everlasting fury light upon him and his!—thus to rob me of my child! And sure it will, for taking back my sweet innocent that I was leading up to Heaven. Such sincerity as my child was possessed of! But all our earthly happiness is now over! Go, my children, go and be miserable and infamous; for my heart is broken within me!""Father," cried my son, "is this your fortitude ?"—" Fortitude, child? yes, ye shall see I have fortitude! Bring me my pistols. I'll pursue the traitor-while he is on earth I'll pursue him. Old as I am, he shall find I can sting him yet. The villain-the perfidious villain!” had by this time reached down my pistols, when my poor wife, whose passions were not so strong as mine, caught me in her arms. 66 My dearest, dearest husband!" cried she, "the Bible is the only weapon that is fit for your old hands now. Open that, my love, and read our anguish into patience, for she has vilely deceived us."-" Indeed, sir,” resumed my son, after a pause," your rage is too violent and unbecoming. You should be my mother's comforter, and you increase her pain. It ill suited you and your reverend character, thus to curse your greatest enemy: you should not have cursed him, villain as he is."- -"I did not curse him child, did I?”— "Indeed, sir, you did; you cursed him twice."-" Then may Heaven forgive me and him if I did! And now, my son, I
see it was more than human benevolence that first taught us to bless our enemies: Blessed be His holy name for all the good he hath given, and for all that he hath taken away. But it is not-it is not a small distress that can wring tears from these old eyes, that have not wept for so many years. My child! To undo my darling!- May confusion seize Heaven forgive me! what am I about to say!-You may remember, my love, how good she was, and how charming: till this vile moment all her care was to make us happy. Had she but died! But she is gone, the honour of our family is contaminated, and I must look out for happiness in other worlds than here. But, my child, you saw them go off: perhaps he forced her away? If he forced her, she may yet be innocent."—" Ah, no, sir," cried the child; "he only kissed her, and called her his angel, and she wept very much, and leaned upon his arm, and they drove off very fast."“She's an ungrateful creature,” cried my wife, who could scarcely speak for weeping, "to use us thus. She never had the least constraint put upon her affections. The vile strumpet has basely deserted her parents without any provocation, thus to bring your gray hairs to the grave; and I must shortly follow."
In this manner that night, the first of our real misfortunes, was spent in the bitterness of complaint, and ill-supported sallies of enthusiasm. I determined, however, to find out our betrayer, wherever he was, and reproach his baseness. The next morning we missed our wretched child at breakfast, where she used to give life and cheerfulness to us all. My wife, as before, attempted to ease her heart by reproaches. "Never," cried she, "shall that vilest stain of our family again darken these harmless doors. I will never call her daughter more. No, let the strumpet live with her vile seducer: she may bring us to shame, but she shall never more deceive us."
"Wife," said I, " do not talk thus hardly my detestation of her guilt is as great as yours; but ever shall this house and this heart be open to a poor returning repentant sinner. The sooner she returns from her transgressions, the more welcome shall she be to me. For the first time the very best may err; art may persuade, and novelty spread out its charm. The first fault is the child of simplicity, but every other, the offspring of guilt. Yes, the wretched creature shall be welcome to this heart and this house, though stained
with ten thousand vices. I will again hearken to the music of her voice, again will I hang fondly on her bosom, if I find but repentance there. My son, bring hither my Bible and my staff: I will pursue her, wherever she is; and though I cannot save her from shame, I may prevent the continuance of her iniquity."
THE PURSUIT OF A FATHER TO RECLAIM A LOST CHILD TO VIRTUE.
THOUGH the child could not describe the gentleman's person who handed his sister into the post-chaise, yet my suspicions fell entirely upon our young landlord, whose character for such intrigues was but too well known. I therefore directed my steps towards Thornhill Castle, resolving to upbraid him, and, if possible, to bring back my daughter but before I had reached his seat, I was met by one of my parishioners, who said he saw a young lady resembling my daughter, in a post-chaise with a gentleman, whom, by the description, I could only guess to be Mr Burchell, and that they drove very fast. This information, however, did by no means satisfy me. I therefore went to the young Squire's, and though it was yet early, insisted upon seeing him immediately. He soon appeared with the most open familiar air, and seemed perfectly amazed at my daughter's elopement, protesting, upon his honour, that he was quite a stranger to it. I now therefore condemned my former suspicions, and could turn them only on Mr Burchell, who, I recollected, had of late several private conferences with her; but the appearance of another witness left me no room to doubt his villainy, who averred, that he and my daughter were actually gone towards the Wells, about thirty miles off, where there was a great deal of company. Being driven to that state of mind in which we all are more ready to act precipitately than to reason right, I never debated with myself, whether these accounts might not have been given by persons purposely placed in my way to mislead me, but resolved to pursue my daughter and her fancied deluder thither. I walked along with earnestness, and inquired of several by the way; but received no accounts, till, entering
the town, I was met by a person on horseback, whom I remembered to have seen at the Squire's, and he assured me that if I followed them to the races, which were but thirty miles farther, I might depend upon overtaking them; for he had seen them dance there the night before, and the whole assembly seemed charmed with my daughter's performance. Early the next day, I walked forward to the races, and about four in the afternoon I came upon the course. The company made a very brilliant appearance, all earnestly employed in one pursuit,-that of pleasure: how different from mine,-that of reclaiming a lost child to virtue! I thought I perceived Mr Burchell at some distance from me ; but, as if he dreaded an interview, upon my approaching him, he mixed among a crowd, and I saw him no more.
I now reflected that it would be to no purpose to continue my pursuit farther, and resolved to return home to an innocent family, who wanted my assistance. But the agitations of my mind, and the fatigues I had undergone, threw me into a fever, the symptoms of which I perceived before I came off the course. This was another unexpected stroke, as I was more than seventy miles distant from home however, I retired to a little alehouse by the roadside; and in this place, the usual retreat of indigence and frugality, I laid me down patiently to wait the issue of my disorder. I languished here for nearly three weeks; but at last my constitution prevailed, though I was unprovided with money to defray the expenses of my entertainment. It is possible the anxiety from this last circumstance alone might have brought on a relapse, had I not been supplied by a traveller, who stopped to take a cursory refreshment. This person was no other than the philanthropic bookseller in St Paul's Churchyard, who has written so many little books for children: he called himself their friend, but he was the friend of all mankind. He was no sooner alighted, but he was in haste to be gone; for he was ever on business of the utmost importance, and was at that time actually compiling materials for the history of one Mr Thomas Trip. I immediately recollected this good-natured man's red pimpled face; for he had published for me against the Deuterogamists of the age; and from him I borrowed a few pieces, to be paid at my return. Leaving the inn, therefore, as I was yet but weak, I resolved to return home by easy journeys of ten miles a-day. My health and usual tranquillity were almost restored, and I now condemned that pride which