« PreviousContinue »
self to his choice, entirely by her good humour, of which she possessed a very large share.
With this woman he had, during twenty-five years, lived a life more resembling the model which certain poets ascribe to the golden age, than any of those patterns which are furnished by the present times. By her he had four children, but none of them arrived at maturity, except only one daughter, whom, in vulgar language, he and his wife had spoiled; that is, had educated with the utmost tenderness and fondness, which she returned to such a degree, that she had actually refused a very extraordinary match with a gentleman a little turned of forty, because she could not bring herself to part with her parents.
The young lady, whom Mr. Nightingale had intended for his son, was a near neighbour of his brother, and an acquaintance of his niece; and, in reality, it was upon the account of his projected match, that he was now come to town: not indeed to forward, but to dissuade his brother from a pur. pose which he conceived would inevitably ruin his nephew; for he foresaw no other event from a union. with Miss Harris, notwithstanding the largeness of her fortune, as neither her person nor mind seemed to him to promise any kind of matrimonial felicity; for she was very tall, very thin, very ugly, very af fected, very silly, and very ill-natured.
His brother, therefore, no sooner mentioned the marriage of his nephew with Miss Miller, than he expressed the utmost satisfaction; and when the father had very bitterly reviled his son, and pronounced the sentence of beggary upon him, the uncle began in the following manner :
If you were a little cooler, brother, I would ask you, whether you love your son for his sake or for your own? You would answer, I suppose, and so I suppose you think, for his sake; and doubtless it is his happiness which you intended in the marriage you proposed for him.
Now, brother, to prescribe rules of happiness to others, hath already appeared to me very absurd; and to insist on doing this, very tyrannical.
is a vulgar error, I know; but it is nevertheless an error. And if this be absurd in other things, it is mostly so in the affair of marriage, the happiness of which depends entirely on the affection which subsists between the parties.
'I have, therefore, always thought it unreasonable in parents to desire to choose for their children on this occasion; since to force affection is an impossible attempt; nay, so much doth love abhor force, that I know not whether, through an unfortunate but incurable perverseness in our natures, it may not be even impatient of persuasion.
It is, however, true, that though a parent will not, I think, wisely prescribe, he ought to be consulted on this occasion; and in strictness, perhaps, should at least have a negative voice. My nephew, therefore, I own, in marrying without asking your advice, hath been guilty of a fault. But, honestly speaking, brother, have you not a little promoted this fault? Have not your frequent declarations on this subject given him a moral certainty of your refusal, where there was any deficiency in point of fortune? Nay, doth not your present anger arise solely from that deficiency? And if he hath failed in his duty here, did you not as much exceed that authority, when you absolutely bargained with him for a woman without his knowledge, whom you yourself never saw, and whom, if you had seen and known as well as I, it must have been madness in you to have ever thought of bringing her into your family.
Still I own my nephew in a fault; but surely it is not an unpardonable fault. He hath acted indeed without your consent, in a matter in which he ought to have asked it; but it is in a matter in which his interest is principally concerned. You yourself must and will acknowledge, that you consulted his
interest only; and if he unfortunately differed from you, and hath been mistaken in his notion of happiness, will you, brother, if you love your son, carry him still wider from the point? Will you increase the ill consequences of his simple choice? Will you endeavour to make an event certain misery to him, which may accidentally prove so? In a word, bro-. ther, because he hath put it out of your power to make his circumstances as affluent as you would, will you distress them as much as you can?'
By the force of the true Catholic faith St. Anthony won upon the fishes. Orpheus and Amphion went a little farther, and, by the charms of music, enchanted things merely inanimate. Wonderful, both! But neither history nor fable have ever yet ventured to record an instance of any one, who, by force of argument and reason, had triumphed over habitual avarice.
Mr. Nightingale, the father, instead of attempting to answer his brother, contented himself with only observing, that they had always differed in their sentiments concerning the education of their child. ren.
I wish,' said he, brother, you would have confined your care to your own daughter, and never have troubled yourself with my son, who hath, I believe, as little profited by your precepts, as by your example.' For young Nightingale was his uncle's godson, and had lived more with him than his father. So that the uncle had often declared, he loved his nephew almost equally with his own child.
Jones fell into raptures with this good gentle. man; and when, after much persuasion they found the father grew still more and more irritated, instead of appeased, Jones conducted the uncle to his nephew, at the house of Mrs. Miller.
AT his return to his lodgings, Jones found the si
tuation of affairs greatly altered from what they had been in at his departure. The mother, the two daughters, and young Mr. Nightingale, were now sat down to supper together, when the uncle was, at his own desire, introduced without any ceremony into the company, to all of whom he was well known; for he had several times visited his nephew at that house.
The old gentleman immediately walked up to Miss Nancy, saluted and wished her joy, as he did. afterwards the mother and the other sister; and, lastly, he paid the proper compliments to his ne phew, with the same good humour and courtesy, as if his nephew had married his equal or superior in fortune, with all the previous requisites first performed.
Miss Nancy and her supposed husband both turned pale, and looked rather foolish than otherwise upon the occasion; but Mrs. Miller took the first oppor tunity of withdrawing; and, having sent for Jones into the dining-room, she threw herself at his feet, and, in a most passionate flood of tears, called him her good angel, the preserver of her poor little family, with many other respectful and endearing appellations, and made him every acknowledgement which the highest benefit can extract from the most grateful heart.
After the first gust of her passion was a little over, which she declared, if she had not vented, would have burst her, she proceeded to inform Mr. Jones, that all matters were settled between Mr. Nightingale and her daughter, and that they were to be married the next morning; at which Mr. Jones hav. ing expressed much pleasure, the poor woman fell.
again into a fit of joy and thanksgiving, which he at length with difficulty silenced, and prevailed on her to return with him back to the company, whom they found in the same good humour in which they had left them.
This little society now passed two or three very agreeable hours together; in which the uncle, who was a very great lover of his bottle, had so well plyed his nephew, that this latter, though not drunk, began to be somewhat flustered; and now Mr. Nightingale, taking the old gentleman with him up stairs into the apartment he had lately occupied, unbosomed himself as follows:
'As you have been always the best and kindest of uncles to me, and as you have shown such unparalleled goodness in forgiving this match, which to be sure may be thought a little improvident; Ishould never forgive myself if I attempted to deceive you in any thing.' He then confessed the truth, and opened the whole affair.
How, Jack!' said the old gentleman, and are you really then not married to this young woman?" No, upon my honour,' answered Nightingale, 'I have told you the simple truth.'My dear boy,' cries the uncle, kissing him, I am heartily glad to hear it. I was never better pleased in my life. If you had been married, I should have assist. ed you as much as was in my power to have made the best of a bad matter; but there is a difference between considering a thing which is already done and irrecoverable, and that which is yet to do. Let your reason have fair play, Jack, and you will see this match in so foolish and preposterous a light, that there will be no need of any dissuasive arguments.'--' How, sir!' replies young Nightingale, 'is there this difference between having already done an act, and being in honour engaged to do it?'--'Pugh,' said the uncle, 'honour is a creature of the world's making, and the world hath the power of a creator over it, and may govern and direct it as they