« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
public shall know all about it. As I never dance cotillions, holding them to be monstrous distorters of the human frame, and tantamount in their operations to being broken and dislocated on the wheel, I generally take occasion, while they are going on, to make my remarks on the company. In the course of these observations I was struck with the energy and eloquence of sundry limbs, which seemed to be flourishing about without appertaining to any body. After much investigation and difficulty, I, at length, traced them to their respective owners, whom I found to be all Frenchmen to a man. Art may have meddled somewhat in these affairs, but nature certainly did more. I have since been considerably employed in calculations on this subject; and by the most accurate computation I have determined, that a Frenchman passes at least three-fifths of his time between the heavens and the earth, and partakes eminently of the nature of a gossam or soap bubble. One of these jack-a-lantern heroes, in taking a figure, which neither Euclid nor Pythagoras himself could demonstrate, unfortunately wound himself—I mean his foot-his better part-into a lady's cobweb mus-lin robe; but perceiving it at the instant, he set himself a spinning the other way, like a top, unravelled his step, without omitting one angle or curve, and extricated himself without breaking a thread of the lady's dress! he then sprung up like a sturgeon, crossed his feet four times, and finished this wonderful evolution by quivering his left leg, as a cat does her paw when she has accidentally dipped it in water. No man of “woman born," who was not a Frenchman, or a mountebank, could have done the like.
I Have often had occasion to remark the fortitude with which women sustain the most overwhelming reverses of fortune. Those disasters which break down the spirit of a man, and prostrate him in the dust, seem to call forth all the energies of the softer sex, and give such intrepidity and elevation to their character, that at times it approaches to sublimity. Nothing can be more touching than to behold a soft and tender female, who had been all weakness and dependence, and alive to every trivial roughness while treading the prosperous paths of life, suddenly rising in mental force to be the comforter and supporter of her husband under misfortune, and abiding with unshrinking firmness, the bitterest blasts of adversity.
As the vine which has long twined its graceful foliage about the oak, and been lifted by it in sunshine, will, when the hardy plant is rifted by the thunderbolt, cling round it with its caressing tendrils, and bind up its shattered boughs; so is it beautifully ordered by Providence, that woman, who is the mere dependant and ornament of man in his happier hours, should be his stay and solace when smitten with sudden calamity; winding herself into the rugged recesses of his nature, tenderly supporting the drooping head and binding up the broken heart.
I was once congratulating a friend, who had around him a blooming family, knit together in the strongest affection. “I can wish you no better lot," said he, with enthusiasm, “ than to have a wife and children.- If you are prosperous, there they are to share your prosperity; if otherwise, there they are to comfort you," And, indeed, I have observed that a married man falling into misfortune is more apt to retrieve his situation in the world than a single one; partly because he is more stimulated to exertion by the necessities of the helpless and beloved beings who depend upon him for subsistence; but chiefly because his spirits are soothed and relieved by domestic endearments, and his self-respect kept alive by finding, that, though all abroad is darkness and humiliation, yet there is still a litile world of love at home, of which he is the monarch. Whereas a single man is apt to run to waste and self-neglect; to fancy himself lonely and abandoned, and his heart to fall to ruin like some deserted mansion, for want of an inhabitant.
These observations call to mind a little domestic story, of which I was once a witness. My intimate friend, Leslie, had married a beautiful and accomplished girl, who had been brought up in the midst of fashionable life. She had, it is true, no fortune, but that of my friend was ample; and he delighted in the anticipation of indulging her in every elegant pursuit, and administering to those delicate tastes and fancies, that spread a kind of witchery about the sex. “ Her life," said he, “ shall be like a fairy tale.” The very difference in their characters produced an harmonious combination; he was of a romantic and somewhat serious cast; she was all life and gladness. I have often noticed the mute rapture with which he would gaze upon her in company, of which her sprightly powers made her the delight; and how in the midst of applause, her eye would still turn to him, as if there alone she sought favour and acceptance. When leaning on his arm, her slender form contrasted finely with his tall manly person. The fond confiding air with which she looked up to him seemed to call forth a flush of triumphant pride and cherishing tenderness, as if he doted on his lovely burden for its very helplessness, Never did a couple set forward on the flowery path of early and well-suited marriage with a fairer prospect of felicity.
It was the misfortune of my friend, however, to have embarked his property in large speculations; and he had not been married many months, when, by a succession of sudden disasters, it was swept from him, and he found himself reduced almost to penury. For a time he kept his situation to himself, and went about with a haggard countenance, and a breaking heart. His life was but a protracted agony; and what rendered it more insupportable was the keeping up a smile in the presence of his wife; for he could not bring himself to overwhelm her with the news. She saw, however, with the quick eyes of affection, that all was not well with him. She marked his altered looks and stifled sighs, and was not to be deceived by his sickly and vapid attempts at cheerfulness. She tasked all her sprightly powers- and tender blandishments to win him back to happiness; but she only drove the arrow deeper into his soul. The more he saw cause to love her, the more torturing was the thought that he was soon to make her wretched. A little while, thought he, · and the smile will vanish from that cheek—the song will die away from those lips—the lustre of those eyes will be quenched with sorrow;, and the happy heart, which now beats lightly in that bosom, will be weighed down, like mine, by the cares and mise-ries of the world.
At length he came to me one day, and related his whole situation in a tone of the deepest despair. When I heard him through, I inquired, “ Does your wife know all this?"-At the question he burst into an agony of tears. “ For God's sake!” cried he,“ if you have any pity on me, don't mention my wife; it is the thought of her that drives me almost to madness !"
“ And why not?” said I. “She must know it sooner or later: you cannot keep it long from her,
and the intelligence may break upon her in a more startling manner than if imparted by yourself; for the accents of those we love soften the harshest tidings. Besides, you are depriving yourself of the comforts of her sympathy; and not merely that, but also endangering the only bond that can keep hearts together-an unreserved community of thought and feeling. She will soon perceive that something is secretly preying upon your mind; and true love will not brook reserve; it feels undervalued and outraged, when even the sorrows of those it loves are concealed from it."
“Oh, but, my friend! to think what a blow I am to give to all her future prospects-how I am to strike her very soul to the earth, by telling her that her husband is a beggar! that she is to forego all the elegancies of life—all the pleasures of societyto shrink with me into indigence and obscurity! To tell her that I have dragged her down from the sphere in which she might have continued to move in constant brightness - the light of every eye-the admiration of every heart !-- how can she bear poverty ? she has been brought up in all the refinement of opulence. How can she bear neglect? she has been the idol of society. Oh, it will break her heart- it will break her heart! ” - I saw his grief was eloquent, and I let it have its flow; for sorrow relieves itself by words. When his paroxysin had subsided, and he had relapsed into moody silence, I resumed the subject gently, and urged him to break his situation at once to his wife. He shook his head mournfully, but positively.
66 But how are you to keep it from her? It is necessary she should know it, that yıu may take the steps proper to the alteration of your circumstances. You must change your style of living- nay,” ob; serving a pang to pass across his countenance, " don't let that afflict you. I am sure you have never placed your happiness in outward show-you have yet friends, warm friends, who will not think the worse