Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

count of a very active little animal, which I think he calls the ichneumon, that makes it the whole business 45 of his life to break the eggs of the crocodile, which he is always in search after. This instinct is the more remarkable, because the ichneumon never feeds upon the eggs he has broken, nor in any other way finds his account in them. Were it not for the incessant labors of 50 this industrious animal, Egypt, says the historian, would be overrun with crocodiles; for the Egyptians are so far from destroying those pernicious creatures, that they worship them as gods.

If we look into the behavior of ordinary partisans, we 55 shall find them far from resembling this disinterested animal; and rather acting after the example of the wild Tartars, who are ambitious of destroying a man of the most extraordinary parts and accomplishments, as thinking that upon his decease the same talents, whatever 60 post they qualified him for, enter of course into his destroyer.

As in the whole train of my speculations I have endeavored, as much as I am able, to extinguish that pernicious spirit of passion and prejudice which rages with 65 the same violence in all parties, I am still the more desirous of doing some good in this particular because I observe that the spirit of party reigns more in the country than in the town. It here contracts a kind of brutality and rustic fierceness, to which men of a politer 70 conversation are wholly strangers. It extends itself even to the return of the bow and the hat; and at the same time that the heads of parties preserve toward one another an outward show of good-breeding, and keep up a perpetual intercourse of civilities, their tools that are dis75 persed in these outlying parts will not so much as mingle

together at a cock-match. This humor fills the country with several periodical meetings of Whig jockeys and

Tory foxhunters, not to mention the innumerable curses, frowns, and whispers it produces at a quarter-sessions.

I do not know whether I have observed in any of my 80 former papers, that my friends Sir Roger de Coverley and Sir Andrew Freeport are of different principles, the first of them inclined to the landed and the other to the moneyed interest. This humor is so moderate in each of them, that it proceeds no farther than to an agreeable 85 raillery, which very often diverts the rest of the club. I find, however, that the Knight is a much stronger Tory in the country than in town, which, as he has told me. in my ear, is absolutely necessary for the keeping up his interest. In all our journey from London to his house 90 we did not so much as bait at a Whig inn; or if by chance the coachman stopped at a wrong place, one of Sir Roger's servants would ride up to his master full speed, and whisper to him that the master of the house was against such an one in the last election. This often 95 betrayed us into hard beds and bad cheer; for we were not so inquisitive about the inn as the inn-keeper; and, provided our landlord's principles were sound, did not take any notice of the staleness of his provisions. This I found still the more inconvenient, because the better 100 the host was, the worse generally were his accommodations; the fellow knowing very well that those who were his friends would take up with coarse diet and an hard lodging. For these reasons, all the while I was upon the road I dreaded entering into an house of any 105 one that Sir Roger had applauded for an honest man.

Since my stay at Sir Roger's in the country, I daily find more instances of this narrow party-humor. Being upon a bowling-green at a neighboring market-town the

106. Is this consistent with the generous and independent views of Sir Roger given in the preceding paper? Is such consistency necessary to the unity of a character sketch?

110 other day (for that is the place where the gentlemen of one side meet once a week), I observed a stranger among them of a better presence and genteeler behavior than ordinary; but was much surprised, that notwithstanding he was a very fair better, nobody would take him 115 up. But upon inquiry I found that he was one who

120

had given a disagreeable vote in a former parliament, for which reason there was not a man upon that bowling-green who would have so much correspondence with him as to win his money of him.

Among other instances of this nature, I must not omit one which concerns myself. Will Wimble was the other day relating several strange stories that he had picked up, nobody knows where, of a certain great man; and upon my staring at him, as one that was surprised 125 to hear such things in the country, which had never been so much as whispered in the town, Will stopped short in the thread of his discourse, and after dinner asked my friend Sir Roger in his ear if he was sure that I was not a fanatic.

130

It gives me a serious concern to see a spirit of dissension in the country; not only as it destroys virtue and common sense, and renders us in a manner barbarians towards one another, but as it perpetuates our animosities, widens our breaches, and transmits our pres135 ent passions and prejudices to our posterity. For my own part, I am sometimes afraid that I discover the seeds of a civil war in these our divisions; and therefore cannot but bewail, as in their first principles, the miseries and calamities of our children.

129. What does Will Wimble mean by a fanatic?

C.

137. What was there in the recent history of England to inspire this fear?

XXIV. SIR ROGER AND THE GYPSIES

[No. 130, July 30, 1711.]

Semperque recentes

Convectare juvat prædas, et vivere rapto.

VIRGIL, Eneid, vii. 748.

As I was yesterday riding out in the fields with my friend Sir Roger, we saw at a little distance from us a troop of gypsies. Upon the first discovery of them, my friend was in some doubt whether he should not exert the justice of the peace upon such a band of lawless vagrants; 5 but not having his clerk with him, who is a necessary counsellor on these occasions, and fearing that his poultry might fare the worse for it, he let the thought drop: but at the same time gave me a particular account of the mischiefs they do in the country, in steal- 10 ing people's goods and spoiling their servants. "If a stray piece of linen hangs upon an hedge," says Sir Roger, "they are sure to have it; if the hog loses his way in the fields, it is ten to one but he becomes their prey; our geese cannot live in peace for them; if a 15 man prosecutes them with severity, his hen-roost is sure to pay for it: they generally straggle into these parts. about this time of the year; and set the heads of our servant-maids so agog for husbands, that we do not expect to have any business done as it should be whilst 20 they are in the country. I have an honest dairy-maid who crosses their hands with a piece of silver every summer, and never fails being promised the handsomest young fellow in the parish for her pains. Your friend the butler has been fool enough to be seduced by them; 25

4, 5. That is, his power as justice of the peace.

6. Why did he need his clerk?

and, though he is sure to lose a knife, a fork, or a spoon every time his fortune is told him, generally shuts himself up in the pantry with an old gypsy for above half an hour once in a twelvemonth. Sweethearts are the 30 things they live upon, which they bestow very plentifully upon all those that apply themselves to them. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them: the sluts have very often white teeth and black eyes."

35

Sir Roger, observing that I listened with great attention to his account of a people who were so entirely new to me, told me that if I would they should tell us our fortunes. As I was very well pleased with the Knight's proposal, we rid up and communicated our hands to 40 them. A Cassandra of the crew, after having examined my lines very diligently, told me that I loved a pretty maid in a corner; that I was a good woman's man; with some other particulars which I do not think proper to relate. My friend Sir Roger alighted from his horse, 45 and exposing his palm to two or three that stood by him, they crumpled it into all shapes, and diligently scanned every wrinkle that could be made in it; when one of them, who was older and more sunburnt than the rest, told him that he had a widow in his line of 50 life upon which the Knight cried, "Go, go, you are an idle baggage ;" and at the same time smiled upon me. The gypsy, finding he was not displeased in his heart, told him, after a farther inquiry into his hand, that his true love was constant, and that she should 55 dream of him to-night: my old friend cried "Pish!" and bid her go on. The gypsy told him that he was a bachelor, but would not be so long; and that he was dearer to somebody than he thought. The Knight still

49, 50. This term is given in palmistry to the long line beginning at the base of the thumb.

« VorigeDoorgaan »