Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

own interest, asks if his honour will just step under the gangway here, and inspect some real India shawls. The gallant lieutenant says to himself, “This fellow knows what's what, by his face ;" and so he proves it by being taken in on the spot. When he brings the shawls home, he says to his sister, with an air of triumph, “There, Poll, there's something for you ; only cost me twelve, and is worth twenty, if it's worth a dollar.” She turns pale. “Twenty what, my dear George? Why, you haven't given twelve dollars for it, I hope ?”. “Not I, by the Lord.” “That's lucky; because you see, my dear George, that all together is not worth more than fourteen or fifteen shillings.” “Fourteen or fifteen what! Why, it's real India, en't it? Why, the fellow told me so; or I'm sure I'd as soon”-—(Here he tries to hide his blushes with a bluster)—“I'd as soon have given him twelve douses on the chaps as twelve guineas.” "Twelve GUINEAS !” exclaims the sister ; and then, drawling forth, “Why -my-DEAR-George,” is proceeding to show him what the articles would have cost at Condell's, when he interrupts her by requesting her to go and choose for herself a tea-table service. He then makes his escape to some messmates at a coffee-house, and drowns his recollection of the shawls in the best wine, and a discussion on the comparative merits of the English and West Indian beauties and tables. At the theatre afterwards, where he has never been before, he takes a lady at the back of one of the boxes for a woman of quality, and when, after returning his long respectful gaze with a smile, she turns aside and puts her handkerchief to her mouth, he thinks it is in derision, till his friend undeceives him. He is introduced to the lady, and ever afterwards, at first sight of a woman of quality (without any disparagement either to those charming personages), expects her to give him a smile. He thinks the other ladies much better creatures than they are taken for; and, for their parts, they tell him that, if all men were like himself, they would trust the sex again -which, for aught we know, is the truth. He has, indeed, what he thinks a very liberal opinion of ladies in general, judg

ing them all, in a manner, with the eye of a seaman's experience. Yet he will believe, nevertheless, in the "true-love” of any given damsel whom he seeks in the way of marriage, let him roam as much, or remain as long at a distance, as he pleases. It is not that he wants feeling, but that he has read of it, time out of mind, in songs; and he looks upon constancy as a sort of exploit, answering to those which he performs at sea. He is nice in his watches and linen. He makes you presents of cornelians, antique seals, cocoa-nuts set in silver, and other valuables. When he shakes hands with you, it is like being caught in a windlass. He would not swagger about the streets in his uniform for the world. He is generally modest in company, though liable to be irritated by what he thinks ungentlemanly behaviour. He is also liable to be rendered irritable by sickness-partly because he has been used to command others, and to be served with all possitle deference and alacrity, and partly because the idea of suffering pain, without any honour or profit to get by it, is unprofessional, and he is not accustomed to it. He treats talents unlike his own with great respect. He often perceives his own so little felt that it teaches him this feeling for that of others. Besides, he admires the quantity of information which people can get without travelling like himself, especially when he sees how interesting his own becomes to them as well as to everybody else. When he tells a story, particularly if full of wonders, he takes care to maintain his character for truth and simplicity by qualifying it with all possible reservations, concessions, and anticipations of objection, such as, “in case, at such time as, so to speak, as it were, at least, at any rate." He seldom uses sea-terms but when jocosely provoked by something contrary to his habits of life; as, for instance, if he is always meeting you on horseback, he asks if you never mean to walk the deck again ; or if he finds you studying day after day, he says you are always overhauling your log-book. He makes more new acquaintances, and forgets his old ones less, than any other man in the busy world; for he is so compelled to make his home

everywhere, remembers his native one as such a place of enjoyment, has all his friendly recollections so fixed upon his mind at sea, and has so much to tell and to hear when he returns, that change and separation lose with him the most heartless part of their nature. He also sees such a variety of customs and manners, that he becomes charitable in his opinions altogether; and charity, while it diffuses the affections, cannot let the old ones go. * Half the secret of human intercourse is to make allowance for each other.

When the officer is superannuated or retires, he becomes, if intelligent and inquiring, one of the most agreeable old men in the world, equally welcome to the silent for his card-playing, and to the conversational for his recollections. He is fond of astronomy and books of voyages, and is immortal with all who know him for having been round the world, or seen the Transit of Venus, or had one of his fingers carried off by a New Zealand hatchet, or a present of feathers from an Otaheitean beauty. If not elevated by his acquirements above some of his humbler tastes, he delights in a corner-cupboard holding his cocoa-nuts and punchbowl, has his summer-house castellated and planted with wooden cannon, and sets up the figure of his old ship, the Britannia or the Lovely Nancy, for a statue in the garden, where it stares eternally with red cheeks and round black eyes, as if in astonishment at its situation.

Chaucer, who wrote his “ Canterbury Tales" about four hundred and thirty years ago, has among his other characters in that work a SHIPMAN, who is exactly of the same cast as the modern sailor—the same robustness, courage, and rough-drawn virtue, doing its duty, without being very nice in helping itself to its recreations. There is the very dirk, the complexion, the jollity, the experience, and the bad horsemanship. The plain, unaffected ending of the description has the air of a sailor's own speech, while the line about the beard is exceedingly picturesque, poetical, and comprehensive. In copying it out, we shall merely alter the old spelling where the words are still modern.

A Shipman was there, wonnéd far by west;
For aught I wot, he was of Dartëmouth.
He rode upon a rouncie, as he couth, *
All in a gown of falding to the knee.
A dagger hanging by a lace had he,
About his neck, under his arm adown.
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good felàw.
Full many a draught of wine he haddë draw
From Bourdeaux ward, while that the chapman sleep.
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought and had the higher hand,
By water he sent 'em home to every land.
But of his craft, to reckon well his tides,
His streamës and his strandës him besides,
His harborough, his moon, and his lode manage,
There was not such from Hull unto Carthage.
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake ;
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,
From Gothland to the Cape de Finisterre,
And every creek in Britain and in Spain.

His barge yclepéd was the Magdelain.” When about to tell his tale, he tells his fellow-travellers that he shall chink them so merry a bell,

" That it shall waken all this company :

But it shall not be of philosophy,
Nor of physic, nor of terms quaint of law:

There is but little Latin in my maw.” The story he tells is a well-known one in the Italian novels, of a monk who made love to a merchant's wife, and borrowed a hundred francs of the husband to give her. She accordingly admits his addresses during the absence of her good man on a journey. When the latter returns, he applies to the cunning monk for repayment, and is referred to the lady, who thus finds her mercenary behaviour outwitted.

* He rode upon a hack-horse, as well as he could.

24

DEATHS OF LITTLE CHILDREN.

А

GRECIAN philosopher, being asked why he wept for the

death of his son, since the sorrow was in vain, replied,

“I weep on that very account." And his answer became his wisdom. It is only for sophists to pretend that we,

whose eyes contain the fountains of tears, need never give way to them. It would be unwise not to do so on some occasions. Sorrow unlocks them in her balmy moods. The first bursts may be bitter and overwhelming; but the soil on which they pour would be the worse without them. They refresh the fever of the soul,—the dry misery, which parches the countenance into furrows, and renders us liable to our most terrible “flesh-quakes."

There are sorrows, it is true, so great, that to give them some of the ordinary vents is to run a hazard of being overthrown. These we must rather strengthen ourselves to resist ; or bow quietly and drily down in order to let them pass over us, as the traveller does the wind of the desert. But where we feel that tears would relieve us, it is false philosophy to deny ourselves at least that first refreshment; and it is always false consolation to tell people that because they cannot help a thing, they are not to mind it. The true way is, to let them grapple with the unavoidable sorrow and try to win it into gentleness by a reasonable yielding. There are griefs so gentle in their very nature, that it would be worse than false heroism to refuse them a tear. Of this kind are the deaths of infants. Particular

« ZurückWeiter »