« AnteriorContinua »
leaving us bebind. As the floods were not yet subsided, we were obliged to hire a guide, who trotted on before, Mr. Burchell and I bringing up the rear. We lightened the fatigues of the road with philosophical disputes, which he seemed to understand perfectly. But what surprised me most was, that though he was a moneyborrower, he defended his opinions with as much obstinacy as if he had been my patron. He now and then also informed me lo whom the different seats belonged that lay in our view as we travelled the road. That,” cried he, pointing to a very magnificent house which stood at some distance, “belongs to Mr. Thorphill, a young gentleman who enjoys a large fortune, though entirely dependant on the will of his uncle, Sir William Thornhill, a gentleman who, content with a little himself, permits his nephew to enjoy the rest, and chiefly resides in town.” “What!” cried I, “is my young landlord then the pephew of a man whose virtues, generosity, and singularities are so universally known? I have heard Sir William Thornbill represented as one of the most generous, yet whimsical men in the kingdom; a man of consummate benevolence." “Something, perhaps, too much so," replied Mr. Burchell, “at least he carried benevolence to an excess when youug; for his passions were then strong, and as they were all upon the side of virtue, they led it up to a romantic extreme. He early begau to aim at the qualifications of the soldier and scholar; was soon distinguished in the army, and had some reputation among men of learning. Adulation ever follows the ambitious; for such alone receive most pleasure from Oattery. He was surrounded with crowds, who shewed him only one side of their character; so that he began to Jose a regard for private interest in universal sympathy, He loved all mankind; for fortune prevented him from knowing that there were rascals. Physicians tell us of a disurder, in which the whole body is so exquisitely sensible, that the slightest touch gives pain : what some have thus suffered in their persons, this gentleman felt in his mind. The slightest distress, whether real or fictitious, touched him to the quick, and his soul laboured under a sickly sensibility of the miseries of others. Thus disposed to relieve, it will be easily conjectured, he found numbers disposed to solicit: his profu
sions began to impair his fortune, but not his good-nature; that, indeed, was seen to increase as the other seemed to decay: he grow improvident as he grew poor; and though he talked like a man of sense, his actions were those of a fool. Still, however, being surrounded with importunily, and do longer able to satisfy every request that was made him, instead of money he gave promises. They were all he had to bestow, and he had not resolution enough to give any man pain by a denial. By this he drew round him crowds of dependants, whom he was sure to disappoint, yet wished to relieve. These hung upon him for a time, and left him with merited reproaches and contempt. But in proportion as he became contemptible to others, he became despicable to himself. His mind had leaned upon their adulation, and that support taken away, he could find no pleasure in the applause of his heart, which he had never learnt to reverence. The world now began to wear a different aspect; the flattery of his friends began to dwindle into simple approbation. Approbation soon took the more friendly form of advice, and advice when rejected produced their reproaches. He now therefore found, that such friends as benefits had gathered round him, were little estiinable: he now fouvd that a man's owu heart must be ever given to gain that of another. I now found, that that — I forget what I was going to observe: in short, Sir, he resolved to respect himself, and laid down a plan of restoring his falling fortune. For this purpose, in his own whimsical manner, he travelled through Europe on foot, and now, though he has scarcely attained the age of thirty, his circumstances are more affluent than ever. At present, his bounties are more rational and moderate than before; but sti?l he preserves the character of a humourist, and finds most pleasure in eccentric virtues."
My attention was so much taken up by Mr. Burchell's account, that I scarcely looked forward as he went along, till we were alarmed by the crics of my fainily, when turning, I perceived my youngest daughter in the midst of a rapid stream, thrown from her horse, and struggling with the torrent. She had sunk twice, vor was it in my power to disengage myself in time to bring her relief. My sensations were even too violent to permit my attempling her rescue: she must have certainly perished had not my companlon, perceiving her danger, instantly plunged in to her relief, and, with some difficulty, brought her in safety to the opposite shore. By taking the current a little farther up, the rest of the family got safely over, where we had an opportunity of joining our acknowledgments to hers. Hor gratitude may be more readily imagined than described: she thanked her deliverer more with looks than words, and continued to lean upon his arm, as if still willing to receive assistance. My wife also hoped one day to bave the pleasure of returning his kindness at her own house. Thus, aster we were refreshed at the next inn, and had dined together, as Mr. Burchell was going to a different part of the country, he took leave; and we pursued our journey: my wife observing as he went, that she liked him extremely, and protesting, that if he had birth and fortune to entitle him to match into such a family as ours, she knew no man she would sooner fix upon. I could not but smile to hear her talk in this lofty strain; but I was never much displeased with those harmless delusions that tend to make us more happy.
CHAPTER IV. A proof that even the humblest fortune may grant happiness, which depends not on circumstances but constitution.
The place of our retreat was in a little neighbourhood, consisting of farmers, who tilled their own grounds, and were equal strangers to opulence and poverty. As they had almost all the conveniences of life withiu themselves, they seldom visited towns or cities, in search of superfluity. Remote from the polite, they still retained the primæval simplicity of manners; and frugal by habit, they scarcely knew that temperance was a virtue. They wrought with cheerfulness on days of labour; but observed festivals as intervals of idleness and pleasure. They kept up the Christmas carol, sent true love-knots on Valentine morning, eat pancakes ou Shrove-tide, shewed their wit on the first of April, and religiously cracked nuts on Michaelmas eve. Being apprized of our approach, the whole neighbourhood came out to meet their minister, drest in their finest clothes, and preceded by'a pipe and tabor: a feast also was provided for our reception, at which we satc cheerfully down; and what the conversation wanted in wit, was made up in laughter.
Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a pratlling river before: on one side a meadow, on the other a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, having given a hundred pound for my predecessor's good-will. Nothing could exceed the neatness of my little enclosures; the elms and hedge-rows appearing with inexpressible beauty. My house consisted of but one story, and was covered with thatch, which gave it an air of great snugness; the walls on the inside were nicely white-washed, and my daughters uudertook to adorn them with pictures of their own designing. Though the same room served us for parlour and kitchen, that only made it the warmer. Besides, as it was kept with the utmost neatness, the dishes, plates, and coppers being well scoured, and all disposed in bright rows on the shelves, the eye was agreeably relieved, and did not want richer furniture. There were three other apartments, one for my wife and me, another for our two daughters, within our own, and the third, with two beds, for the rest of the children.
The little republic to which I gave laws, was regulated in the following manner: by sun-rise we all assembled in our common apartment; the fire being previously kindled by the servant. After we had saluted each other with proper ceremony, for I always thought fit to keep up some mechanical forms of good breeding, without which freedom ever destroys friendship, we all bent in gratitude to that Being who gave us another day. This duty being performed, my son and I went to pursue our usual industry abroad, while my wife and daughters employed themselves in providing breakfast, which was always ready at a certain time. I allowed half an hour for this meal, and an hour for dinner; which time was taken up in innocent mirth between my wife and daughters, and in philosophical arguments between my sou and me.
As we rose with the sun, so we never pursued our labours after it was gone down, but returned home to the expecting family;
where smiling looks, peat hearth, and pleasant fire were prepared for our reception. Nor were we without guests; sometimes farmer Flamborough, our talkative neighbour, and often the blind piper, would pay us a visit, and taste our gooseberry-wine; for the making of which we had lost neither the receipt nor the reputation. These harmless people had several ways of being good company; while one played, the other would sing some soothing ballad, Johnny Armstrong's last good night, or the cruelty of Barbara Allen. The night was concluded in the manner wc began the morning, my youngest boys being appointed to read the lessons of the day, and he that read loudest, distinctest and best was to have a halfpenny on Sunday to put in the poor's box.
When Sunday came, it was indeed a day of finery, which all my sumptuary edicts could not restrain. How'well soever I fancied my lectures against pride had conquered the vanity of my daughters, yet I found them still secretly attached to all their former finery: they still loved laces, ribands, bugles, and catgut; my wife herself retained a passion for her crimson paduasoy, because I formerly happened to say it became her.
The first Sunday in particular their behaviour served to mortify me: I had desired my girls the preceding night to be drest early the next day; for I always loved to be at church a good while before the rest of the congregation. They punctually obeyed my directions; but when we were to assemble in the morning at breakfast, down came my wife and daughters, drest out all in their former splendour: their hair plastered up with pomatum, their faces patched to taste, their trains bundled up in a heap behind, and rustling at every motion. I could not help smiling at their vanity, particularly that of my wife, from whom I expected more discretion. In this exigence, therefore, my only resource was to order my son, with an important air, to call our coach. The girls were amazed at the command; but I repeated it with more solemnity than before. – “Surely, my dear, you jest,” cricd my wife,
we can walk it perfectly well: we want no coach to carry us now.” “You mistake, child," returned I, “we do want a coach; for if we walk to church in this trim, the very children in the parish will hoot after us.". “Indeed,” replied my wife, “I always ima