Page images
PDF
EPUB

Woman.

Ay, sir, 'Tis cutting keen! 1 smart at every breath :Heaven knows how I shall reach my journey's end; For the way is long before me, and my feet, – God help me!-sore with travelling: I would gladly, If it pleased God, at once lie down and die.

Traveller. Nay, nay, cheer up! a little food and rest Will comfort you; and then your journey's end May make amends for all. You shake your head, And weep. Is it some mournful business, then, That leads you from your home?

Woman.

Sir, I am going To see my son at Plymouth, sadly hurt In the late action, and in the hospital Dying, I fear me, now.

Traveller. Was he your only child ?

Woman.

My only one, The stay and comfort of my widowhood, A dear, good boy ! - When first he went to sea, I felt what it would come to:— something told me I should be childless soon. But tell me, sir, If it be true that for a hurt like his There is no cure. Please God to spare his life, Though he be blind, yet I should be so thankful! I can remember there was a blind man Lived in our village, - one, from his youth up, Quite dark; — and yet he was a merry man; And he had none to tend him half so well As I would tend my boy!

Traveller.

Of this be sure, -His hurts are looked to well; and the best help The land affords, -as rightly is his due,

Ever at hand. How happened it he left you?
Was a seafaring life his early choice?

an.

Woman.
No, sir ! poor fellow,- he was wise enough
To be content at home; and 'twas a home
As comfortable, sir ! - even though I say it, —
As any in the country. He was left
A little boy, when his poor father died, -
Just old enough to totter by himself,
And call his mother's name. We two were all ,
And as we were not left quite destitute,
We bore up well. We had kind neighbours too,
And never felt distress. So he grew up
A comely lad, and wondrous well disposed.
I taught him well : there was not in the parish
A child who said his prayers more regular,
Or answered readier through his Catechism. —
If I had foreseen this ! — but 'tis a blessing
We don't know what we're born to !

Traveller.

But how came it He chose to be a sailor?

Woman.

You shall hear, sir. As he grew up, he used to watch the birds In the corn, - child's work, you know, and easily done. "Tis an idle sort of task: so he built up A little hut of wicker work and clay, Under the hedge, to shelter him in rain; And then he took, for very idleness, To making traps to catch the plunderers, — All sorts of cunning traps that boys can make, Propping a stone, to fall, and shut them in, Or crush them with its weight, or else a spring Swung on a bough. He made them cleverly ;And I, poor foolish woman! I was pleased To see the boy so handy. You may guess What followed, sir, from this unlucky skill. He did what he should not, when he was older :I warned him oft; but he was caught In wiring hares at last, and had his choice, The prison or the ship.

Traveller.

The choice at least
Was kindly eft him; and for broken laws
This was, methinks, no heavy punishment.

Woman.
So I was told, sir. And I tried to think so;
But 'twas a sad blow to me. I was used
To sleep at nights, as sweetly as a child :-
Now, if the wind blew rough, it made me start,
And think of my poor boy, tossing about
Upon the roaring seas. And then I seemed
To feel that it was hard to take him from me
For such a little fault. But he was wrong,
Oh! very wrong, - a murrain on his traps !
See what they've brought him to!

Traveller.

Well! well! take comfort.
He will be taken care of, if he lives;
And should you lose your child, this is a country
Where the brave sailor never leaves a parent
To weep for him in want.

Woman.

Sir, I shall want
No succour long. In the common course of years,
I soon must be at rest; and 'tis a comfort,
When grief is hard upon me, to reflect
It only leads me to that rest the sooner.

[blocks in formation]

(Humorous style, requires a playful freedom and flow of utterance, which indulges every trait of a expressionto the utmost extent. Raillery borders often on laughter itself, and has usually a degree of that quality of voice.]

The following satirical sketch may be thought not inapplicable to the victims of fashion in other places than London. It is drawn from the papers of a plain-spoken but cordial frienu to the sex, who takes a fancy to the diminutive name cf Punch.

“By fair sufferers we mean about ninety-nine out of every hundred of those poor dear young ladies, condemned, through the accident of their birth, to languish, in silk and satin, beneath the load of a fashionable existence.

Ah! little think the gay licentious' paupers, who have no plays, operas, and evening parties to be forced to go to, and no carriages to be obliged to ride about in, of the miseries which are endured by the daughters of affluence!

“ It is a well-known fact, that scarcely one of those tender creatures can be in a theatre or a concert-room ten minutes without being seized with a violent headache, which, more frequently than not, obliges her to leave before the performance is over, and drag a brother, husband, lover or attentive young man, away with her. If spared the headache, how often is she threatened with a fainting fit, — nay, now and then seized with it, — to the alarm and disturbance of her company! Not happening to feel faint exactly, still there is a sensation, 'a something,' as she describes it, 'she doesn't know what,' which she is almost sure to be troubled with. Unvisited by these afflictions, nevertheless, either the cold, or the heat, or the glare of the gas, or some other source of pain, oppresses or excruciates her susceptible nerves. And when we take one such young lady, and put together all the public amusements which she must either go to, -or die, in the course of a London season; and when we add up all the headaches, and swoons, and the 'somethings-she-does-n'tknow-what'; the shiverings, burnings, and other agonizing sensations which she has undergone by the end of it; the result is an aggregate of torture truly frightful to contemplate.

“ Suppose she is obliged to walk, — this is sometimes actually the case :- happy is she if she can go twenty yards without some pain or other, in the side, the back, the shoulder, the great toe. Thus the pleasure of shopping, promenading, or a pic-nic, is imbittered.

“If she reads a chapter in a novel, the chances are that her temples throb for it. She tries to embroider a corsair : doing more than an arm of him at a time, strains her eyes. Employ herself in what way she will, she feels fatigued afterwards, and may think herself well off if she is not worse.

" Without a care to vex her, save, perhaps, some slight misgivings respecting the captain,' she is unable to rest

though on a couch of down. Exercise would procure her slumber; but oh! she cannot take it.

"Whether a little less confinement of the waist, earlier hours, plainer luncheons, more frequent airings in the green fields, and mental and bodily exertion, generally, than what, in these respects, is the fashionable usage, would in any way alleviate the miseries of our 'fair sufferers,' may be questioned. It may also be inquired how far such miseries are imaginary, and to what extent a trifling exercise of resolution would tend to mitigate them. Otherwise supposing them to be ills that woman is necessarily heiress to, - unavoidable, irremediable, - what torments, what anguish, must fishwomen, washerwomen, charwomen, and hay-makers, – to say nothing of servants of all work, – and even ladies' maids, endure every day of their lives!”

EXERCISE XXXIII.

THE DESERT.

Translated from Countess Hun-Han.

(An example of “grave" tone, sinking to melancholy. The "pitchof the voice, in such passages, is “low," — the “ force," « moderate,- the “ movement,slow. A degree of “ monolone” pervades all the sentences which express the deeper feelings of the soul, called forth by solitude and desolation.]

Never did the pilgrim tarry willingly upon this waste of sand. The great caravans of devotees on their pilgrimage to Mecca, and others of a trading character, leave behind them here no traces, save graves and scattered bones. Dead camels, in all the stages of decay, from those lately fallen to those of which the white skeletons are alone remaining, mark out the way. The graves of pilgrims who have died in the desert, from want, disease, or exhaustion, are marked out by little heaps of sand, with the bones of animals stuck around them, and are common objects.

In the air, large birds of prey sail slowly round and round; crows, with wild, harsh croakings, and heavy, flapping wings, are seen in great numbers; and cat-like beasts of prey lurk among the low shrubs, — all seeking for corpses! The desert is a graveyard in its most disconsolate form.

The sea, the mountains, are solitary, and sometimes seem melancholy in their lone dreariness; but if there is no life in

« PreviousContinue »