[ocr errors]

But though the nation be exempt from real evils, think not, my friend, that it is more happy on this account than others. They are afflicted, it is true, with neither famine nor peftilence, but then there is a disorder peculiar to the country, which every feafon makes ftrange ravages among them; it spreads with peftilential rapidity, and infects almost every rank of people; what is fill more ftrange, the natives have no name for this peculiar malady, though well known to foreign physicians, by the appellation of epidemic terror.

A feason is never known to pass in which the people are not vifited by this cruel calamity in one fhape or another, feemingly different, though ever the fame; one year it issues from a baker's fhop, in the shape of a fix-penny loaf, the next it takes the appearance of a comet with a fiery tail, a third it threatens like a flat-bottomed boat, and a fourth it carries confternation at the bite of a mad dog. The people, when once infected, lofe their relish for happiness, faunter about with looks of defpondence, afk after the calamities of the day, and receive no comfort but in heightening each other's diftrefs. It is infignificant how remote or near, how weak or powerful, the object of terror may be, when once they resolve to fright and be frighted; the meereft trifles fow conflernation and dismay, each proportions his fears, not to the object, but to the dread he difcovers in the countenance of others; for when once the fermentation is begun, it goes on of itself, though the original cause be discontinued, which first fet it in motion.

A dread of mad dogs is the epidemic terror which now prevails, and the whole nation is at present actually groaning under the malignity of its influence. The people fally

from their houses with that circumfpection, which is prudent in such as expect a mad dog at every turning. The physician publishes his prescription, the beadle prepares his halter, and a few, of unufual bravery, arm themfelves with boots and buff gloves, in order to face the enemy, if he should offer to attack them. In fhort, the whole people ftand bravely upon their defence, and feem, by their prefent fpirit, to fhew a refolution of not being tamely bit by mad dogs any longer.

Their manner of knowing whether a dog be mad or no, somewhat resembles the ancient European custom of trying witches. The old woman suspected was tied hand and foot, and thrown into the water. If the fwam, then she was inftantly carried off to be burnt for a witch, if fhe funk, then indeed the was acquitted of the charge, but drowned in the experiment. In the fame manner, a crowd gather round a dog suspected of madness, and they begin by teazing the devoted animal on every fide; if he attempts to ftand upon the defenfive, and bite, then he is unanimously found guilty, for a mad dog always fnaps at every thing; if, on the contrary, he ftrives to escape by running away, then he can expect no compaffion, for mad dogs always run ftraight forward before


It is pleasant enough for a neutral being like me who has no share in thofe ideal calamities, to mark the flages of this national disease. The terror at first feebly enters with a difregarded story of a little dog, that had gone through a neighbouring village, that was thought to be mad by several that had seen him. The next account comes that a mastiff ran through a certain town, and had bit five geefe, which immediately run mad, foamed at

[ocr errors][merged small]

the bill, and died in great agonies foon after. Then comes an affecting hiftory of a little boy bit in the leg, and gone down to be dipt in the falt water; when the people have fufficiently fhuddered at that, they are next congealed with a frightful account of a man, who was faid lately to have died from a bite he had received fome years before. This relation only prepares the way for another, ftill more hideous, as how the mafter of a family, with feven finall children, were all bit by a mad lapdog, and how the poor father firft perceived the infection by calling for a draught of water, where he saw the lap-dog fwimming in the cup.

When epidemic terror is thus once excited, every morning comes loaded with fome new difafter; as in ftories of ghofts, each loves to hear the accounts, though it only ferves to make him uneafy, fo here each liftens with eagerness, and adds to the tidings with new circumftances of peculiar horror. A lady, for inftance, in the country, of very weak nerves, has been frighted by the barking of a dog; and this, alas! too frequently happens. The ftory foon is improved and spreads, that a mad dog had frighted a lady of diftinction. Thefe circumstances begin to grow terrible before they have reached the neighbouring village, and there the report is, that a lady of quality was bit by a mad mastiff. This account every moment gathers new ftrength, and grows more difmal as it approaches the capital, and by the time it has arrived. in town, the lady is defcribed, with wild eyes, foaming, mouth, running mad upon all fours, barking like a dog, biting her fervants, and at last smothered between two beds by the advice of her doctors: while the mad mastiff is, in the mean time, ranging the whole country over,

lavering at the mouth, and feeking whom he may devour.

My landlady, a good natured woman, but a little credulous, waked me fome mornings ago before the ufual hour, with horror and aftonishment in her looks; fhe defired me, if I had any regard for my fafety, to keep within; for a few days ago fo difmal an accident had happened, as to put the world upon their guard. A mad dog down in the country, fhe affured me, had bit a farmer, who foon becoming mad, ran into his own yard and bit a fine brindled cow; the cow quickly became as mad as the man, began to foam at the mouth, and raifing herself up, walked about on her hind legs, fometimes barking like a dog, and sometimes attempting to talk like the farmer. Upon examining the grounds of this story, I found my landlady had it from one neighbour, who had it from another neighbour, who heard it from very good authority.

Were moft ftories of this nature thoroughly examined, it would be found that numbers of fuch as have been faid to suffer, were no way injured, and that of those who have been actually bitten, not one in a hundred was bit by a mad dog. Such accounts in general, therefore, only ferve to make the people miferable by falfe terrors, and fometimes fright the patient into actual phrensy, by creating those very symptoms they pretended to deplore.

But even allowing three or four to die in a season, of this terrible death, (and four is probably too large a conceffion,) yet ftill it is not confidered, how many are preserved in their health and in their property by this devoted animal's fervices. The midnight robber is kept at a diftance; the infidious thief is often detected: the health

ful chace repairs many a worn conftitution; and the poor man finds in his dog a willing affiftant, eager to leffen his toil, and content with the fmalleft retribution.

"A dog, (fays one of the English poets,) is an honest creature, and I am a friend to dogs." Of all the beafts. that graze the lawn, or hunt the foreft, a dog is the only animal, that, leaving his fellows, attempts to cultivate the friendship of man; to man he looks in all his neceffities with a speaking eye for affiftance; exerts for him all the little fervice in his power, with cheerfulness and pleasure; for him bears fatigue and famine with patience and refignation; no injuries can abate his fidelity, no diftrefs induce him to forfake his benefactor; ftudious to pleafe, and fearing to offend, he is ftill an humble, ftedfaft dependant, and in him alone fawning is not flattery. How unkind then to torture this faithful creature, who has left the foreft to claim the protection of man; how ungrateful a return to the trufty animal for all his fervices. Adieu.



THE Europeans are themfelves blind, who defcribe

fortune without fight. No firft-rate beauty ever had finer eyes, or faw more clearly; they who have no other trade but feeking their fortune, need never hope to find her; coquet-like, fhe flies from her close pursuers, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »