« ZurückWeiter »
eruiting officer (who took a place because they were to go); young 'squire Quickset, her cousin (that her mother wished her to be married to); Ephraim the quaker, her guardian ; and a gentleman that had studied himself dumb from sir Roger de Coverley's. I ob- . served, by what he said of myself, that according to his office he dealt much in intelligence; and doubted not but there was some foundation for his reports of the rest of the company, as well as for the whimsical account he
The next morning, at day-break, we were all called ; and I, who know my own natural shyness, and endeavour to be as little liable to be disputed with as possible, dressed immediately, that I might make no one wait. The first preparation for our setting out was, that the captain's half-pike was placed near the coachman, and a drum behind the coach. In the mean time the drummer, the captain's equipage, was very loud, that none of the captain's things should be placed so as to be spoiled; upon which his cloke-bag was fixed in the seat of the coach : and the captain himself, according to a frequent though invidious behaviour of military men, ordered his man to look sharp that none but one of the ladies should have the place he had taken fronting to the coach-box.
We were in some little time fixed in our seats, and sate with that dislike which people not too good-natured usually conceive of each other at first sight. The coach jumbled us insensibly into some sort of familiarity : and we had not moved above two miles, when the widow asked the captain what success he had in his recruiting? The officer, with a frankness he believed very graceful, told her, that indeed he had but very little luck, and had suffered much by desertion; there
fore, should be glad to end his warfare in the service of her or her fair daughter. In a word, continued he, I am a soldier, and to be plain is my character : you see me, madam, young, sound, and impudent: take me yourself, widow, or give me to her ; I will be wholly at your disposal. I am a soldier of fortune, ha!' This was followed by a vain laugh of his own, and a deep silence of all the rest of the company. I had nothing left for it but to fall fast asleep, which I did with all speed. Come, said he, resolve upon it, we will make a wedding at the next town: we will wake this pleasant companion who is fallen asleep, to be the brideman ; and (giving the quaker a clap on the knee) he concluded, This sly saint, who I will warran understands what is what as well as you or I, widow, shall give the bride as father. The quaker, who happened to be a man of smartness, answered, Friend, I take it in good part that thou hast given me the authority of a father over this comely and virtuous child; and I must assure thee, that if I have the giving her, I shall not bestow her on thee. Thy mirth, friend, savoureth of folly; thou art a person of a light mind; thy drum is a type of thee, it soundeth because it is empty. Verily, it is not from thy' fullness, but thy emptiness, that thou hast spoken this day. Friend, friend, we have hired this coach in partnership with thee, to carry us to the great city; we cannot go any other way. This worthy' mother must hear thee if thou wilt needs utter thy follies; we cannot help it, friend, I say: if thou wilt, we must hear thee; but if thou wert a man of understanding, thou wouldst not take advantage of thy courageous countenance to abash us children of peace. Thou art, thou sayest, a soldier : give quarter to us, who cannot resist thee. Why didst
thou fleer at our friend, who feigned himself asleep? He said nothing: but how dost thou know what he containeth? If thou speakest improper things in the hearing of this virtuous young virgin, consider it as an outrage against a distressed person that cannot get from thee: to speak indiscreetly what we are obliged to hear, by being hasped up with thee in this public vehicle, is in some degree assaulting on the high road.'
Here Ephraim paused, and the captain with a happy and uncommon impudence (which can be convicted and support itself at the same time), cries, 'Faith, friend, I thank thee; I should have been a little impertinent if thou hadst not reprimanded me. Come, thou art, I see, a smoky old fellow, and I will be very orderly the ensuing part of the Journey. I was going to give mye self airs; but, ladies, I beg pardon,'
The captain was so little out of humour, and our company was so far from being soured by this little ruffle, that Ephraim and he took a particular delight in being agreeable to each other for the future, and assumed their different provinces in the conduct of the company. Our reckonings, apartments, and accommodation, fell under Ephraim : and the captain looked to all disputes on the road, as the good behaviour of our coachman, and the right we had of taking place, as going to London, of all vehicles coming from thence, The occurrences we met with were ordinary, and very little happened which could entertain by the relation of them: but when I considered the company we were in,, I took it for no small good fortune that the whole journey was not spent in impertinences, which to one part of us might be an entertainment, to the other a suffering. What therefore Ephraim said when we were almost arrived at London, had to me an air not
only of good understanding but of good breeding. Upon the young lady's expressing her satisfaction in the journey, and declaring how delightful it had been to her, Ephraim declared himself as follows: There is no ordinary part of human life which expresseth so much a good mind, and a right inward man, as his behaviour upon meeting with strangers, especially such as may seem the most unsuitable companions to him. Such a man, when he falleth in the way with persons of simplicity and innocence, however knowing he may be in the ways of men, will not yaunt himself thereof; but will the rather hide his superiority to them, that he may not be painful unto them. My good friend, (continued he, turning to the officery) thee and I are to part by and by, and peradventure we may never meet again : but be advised by a plain man : modes and apparels are but trifles to the real man; therefore, do not think such a man as thyself terrible for thy garb, nor such a one as me contemptible for mine. When two such as thee and I meet, with affections as we ought to have towards each other, thou shouldst rejoice to see my peaceable demeanour, and I should be glad to see thy strength and ability to protect me in it.'
ON THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. No. 135.
I have somewhere read of an eminent
who used in his private offices of devotion to give thanks to heaven that he was born a Frenchman : for
my own part, I look upon it as a peculiar blessing that I was born an Englishman. Among many other reasons, I
think myself very happy in my country, as the language of it is wonderfully adapted to a man who is sparing of his words, and an enemy to loquacity.
As I have frequently reflected on my good fortune in this particular, I shall communicate to the public my Speculations upon the English tongue, not doubting but they will be acceptable to all my curious readers.
The English delight in silence more than any other European nation, if the remarks which are made on us by foreigners are true. Our discourse is not kept up in conversation, but falls into more pauses and intervals than in our neighbouring countries ; as it is observed, that the matter of our writings is thrown much closer together, and lies in a narrower compass, than is usual in the works of foreign authors : for, to favour our natural taciturnity, when we are obliged to utter our thoughts, we do it in the shortest way we are able, and give as quick a birth to our conceptions as possible.
This humour shows itself in several remarks that we may make upon the English language. As, first of all, by its abounding in monosyllables, which gives us an opportunity of delivering our thoughts in few sounds. This indeed takes off from the elegance of our tongue, but at the same time expresses our ideas in the readiest manner, and consequently answers the first design of speech better than the multitude of syllables, which make the words of other languages more tuneable and sonorous. The sounds of our English words are commonly like those of string music, short and transient, which rise and perish upon a single touch : those of other languages are like the notes of wind instruments, sweet and swelling, and lengthened out into variety of modulation,