Page images

rit. Your imagination toils and pants after their meaning through the great abyss of space; and you hardly feel the pressure of the real world around you for the afternoon.

Then there is a set of people, of the quieter sex-good neighbours, mothers of families-who, when there is any sickness in your own house, and the mistress of the house herself is not very well able to take care of it, rush in unbidden, apparently upon the same instinct which brings birds of prey to fields of battle, and immediately begin to assume a strange kind of unauthorized directorate, as if they had been all their lives as familiar with the scene as yourself. These kind persons leave their own houses to Providence, all selfish considerations being abandoned for the time at the call of what they term distress. On coming home to dinner, totally unwitting of the trouble which has befallen the family in your absence, you are surprised in limine, at the very door-step, by meeting a quiet-looking oldish woman in her stocking-soles, who comes forward, holding up her hand, after the manner of a judge administering an oath, and only pronounces the single emphatic word-wheesht! You are beckoned in a most mysterious manner into a side-room, and told to be very quiet, for has just fallen into a sleep, which the Doctor expects to do a great deal of good, and there must, upon no account, be any disturbance. Though the bed-room of the patient is so far away, that no voice, however loud, could reach it, this high priestess of silence still speaks thirty degrees below the zero of articulation, the sense of the necessity of quiet being so weighty upon her mind, that she totally forgets the state of the case in this particular instance, and even, perhaps, if she were removed to the distance of several miles, would still fear to give her words full utterance. You soon find this discreet old lady in full possession of your house; invested with the management of the keys; arbitress of all matters connected with the children's frocks: and sole autocrat of the bread and butter. If you live in any of the streets of the New Town, where hardly a cart or carriage is to be heard from morning till night, you immediately find the street in front of the door strewed with tanners' bark, to deafen the sound of those rarely occurring annoyances. Of course, it' you live in the Old Town, where carts and carriages are incessant, the patient is understood to have nerves accordingly, and no bark is required. Suppose the case to be one where the mistress of the house herself is indisposed: for some time you find your consequence as master entirely absorbed; you are a mere subordinate where once you were principal; the attentions of all the servants, and also of the discreet lady, are all engrossed by the patient; and you come into, and go out of the house, without ever being heeded or regarded; unless, perhaps, when you happen to make a very leetle noise, and then a

troop of harpies, with the discreet lady at their head, fly upon you, with open mouth and uplifted hands, and all the gesticulation and expression which might properly accompany an outburst of indignant remonstrance, but which, in this case, is a kind of dumb thunder, ending all in the awful monosyllable-wheesht! Then, there is an oiling of doors, and a throng of women going through the house in their stockings, or at most in what are called carpet-shoes, and a whispering and breathing of wheesht! for many days, till at last, through very contagion, you yourself become as timid as a tit-mouse, and almost forget the sound of your own voice. Then the mysterious old woman, how beautifully she manages everything! Her out-goings and her in-comings are all most becoming and composed. The flame which you see her occasionally sending over a plateful of brandy for the sick-room, is not more gently lambent than her own pace. You see her a few yards off addressing herself to some underling, and, although you hear not a whisper nor a breath, except, perhaps, the ever interjected wheesht, to your surprise her language appears to be comprehended by the person spoken to, and lo and behold it is immediately acted upon. The very children, albeit unaccustomed to the reign of silence, are overborn and dashed down by the awful influence of the everlasting wheesht, and are observed crawling, like so many kittens, through a suite of apartments, where they erst performed gallopades of the most outrageous description. If you happen to take a peep into the sick-chamber, you see the mysterious woman standing over the bed, with the air and gestures of an inspired Pythoness, pointing to distant bottles and boxes, and doing every thing, speech excepted, to make herself understood. If the wrong bottle or box be touched by the servant, she writhes her whole body and countenance in an agony of dumb negation; but, when the right one is pounced upon at last, she suddenly relaxes into approval, and her agonies cease. Suppose that the patient at last "departs," the stillness of the household is not remitted, in consideration of there being no longer any one to be disturbed. It rather becomes more deep and solemn than ever. There is still the same carpet-shoeing as before the same ejaculating of wheesht. The house begins to look like an absolute sepulchre, and the mysterious woman, like some marble and unspeaking cherub, planted to guard it. She takes a leading hand in the melancholy duties paid to the dead, and is always able to recommend a person who makes grave-clothes-Mrs So-and-so-living in some close in the Old Town, first stair, fifth door up. She can even do something in the way of mournings for the survivors; the children will require this, and the servants that; so much crape for this one's hat; so much black ribbon for that one's bonnet. Even after all these matters have been arranged by her

friendly intervention, she does not yet depart. She must see after the wine and cake at the funeral, and take care that every thing is managed with decency, and, above all things, quietly. At last, when all is over, she soofs out at the door, with a strange rustle of silk, as if she were saying, and saying for the last farewell time, the oft-repeated shibboleth of her kind-WHEESHT!

Tait's Edinburgh Mag.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]



"Si tu es pot de chambre, tant pis pour toi."-VOLTAIRE.

HEREDITARY honours are, certainly, the most rational of human devices. It was an excellent idea to suppose that a man propagated his virtues to the most distant posterity. Few notions have succeeded better in keeping the world in order. In fact, it was the best method of granting to the multitude the inestimable gift of a perpetuity of dependence. Had the idea stopped with the King or chief magistrate, it would not have been half so beautiful, or a hundredth part so useful. So far, a reason for the custom is obvious to the most superficial. Hereditary distinction, it is said, preserves a people from the wars and tumults that might arise from the contests of elective distinction. Very well-I do not dispute this assertion-it is plausible. But Dukes and Earls?-if their honours were not hereditary, would there be contests about them? The world suffers itself to be disturbed by individuals wishing to be Kings, but it would not be so "On ne descomplaisant to every man that wished to be a Lord. arrange pas tout le monde pour si peu de chose," we should not have wars and discords, as the seeds of that sort of ambition. We do not, then, grant hereditary honours to these gentry as the purchase of peace-we do not make them as a bargain, but bestow them as a gratuity. Our reasons, therefore, for this generosity, are far deeper than those which make us governed by King Log to day, because, yesterday, we were governed by his excellent father, King Stork-so much deeper, that, to plain men, they are perfectly invisible. But a little reflection teaches us the utility of the practice. Hereditary superiority to the few, necessarily produces hereditary inferiority to the many

and it makes the herd contented with being legislatively and decorously bullied by a sort of prescriptive habit. Messieurs the Eels are used to be skinned and the custom reconciles them to the hereditary privilege of Messeigneurs the Cooks.

[ocr errors]


"As it fell upon a day."

There is a certain country, not very far distant from our own: in a certain small town, close to the metropolis of this country, there once lived a certain young lady, of the name of Laura. She was the daughter and sole heiress of an honest gentleman-an attorney-at-law --and was particularly addicted to novels and falling in love. One

« PreviousContinue »