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friend, the late incumbent, I applied for the preferment, and obtained it.'
Upon the death of the late incumbent, Sir!' said my friend, ' why you could scarcely have been born when the late incumbent died-it is more than four-and-twenty years since.'
Dear me, Sir,' said Í," then I must be either mad or dreaming; I made the application to the Bishop only the day before yesterday, and the day before that I became acquainted with the demise of the late rector.'
“ At this announcement everybody stared, and the lady of the house, with a prudence worthy of the highest praise, stuck the poker into the fire.
“ ' Demise, Sir!' said Simpkinson, 'why! do I look like a dead man? Here I am alive and well—I cannot say merry—for the dress in which you see my family will sufficiently announce that we have experienced a sad and heavy loss.'
“What, Sir!' exclaimed I, not knowing exactly how to fashion my words, ' wasn't you buried last Tuesday ?'
“Not I,' replied the incumbent, for such he proved to be; ' my poor brother George, who had been staying here for some time, died last
week, and was interred in our church on the day you mention, but for me
“Well,' exclaimed Miss Simpkinson, who seemed delighted with the result, ' I thought there must be some mistake.'
Upon my word,' said I,ʻI can only throw myself upon your kindness and indulgence to forgive me; the mistake certainly was mine; the similarity of the name and the profession I believe'—here I received a nod of assent-caused the contretemps, and I have only to apologise for what must appear a most impertinent intrusion upon you at this moment. I hope, Sir,' continued I, proffering my hand to the worthy rector, ‘ you will pardon me, and that our very curious introduction to each other may lead to a future acquaintance; you may rest assured that I should be the last man in the world to rejoice in your death.'
“Ha!' said the third daughter, who before had said nothing, and seemed now determined to fire off an old joke, 'it is Pa's living you would rejoice in.'
“ I affected not to understand the quibble of the pert thing, who, I could see, was the pet of the family, and fancied herself a beauty; and having bowed low to all the party, tripped over the carpet, stumbled down the steps, and left the house in search of my horse, whose stall in possession was worth infinitely more than my rectory in prospectu. “ That,” said Wells,
first great failure; however, time and patience conquered all obstacles, and I married Sarah upon an income not much exceeding what you state yours to be-and as for her fortune, she did not come to it till the death of her excellent mother; but we contrived to get on, and although we had nothing superfluous, yet we lived as people in our state of life should."
I was very well pleased to hear this adventure of my respectable father-in-law, and it was told with all the advantages of point and manner, which very much reminded me of my friend Daly; but I did not quite relish the climax. By way of inference from the story, he told me of his skill in making the most of a little, and in the art of doing as well upon a small income, as apother man could opon a large one; but
these were not agreeable indications to a lover who had less than four hundred a-year, and who stood pledged to marry a charming young lady with nothing at all, which seemed, from all I could collect, to be the real state of the case.
Wells, however, whose volubility when once “ off” was uncheckable, and who appeared to me, upon this particular morning, resolved to talk me out of the main object of my interview, which was really to ascertain how I was safely and consistently to fulfil my engagement with him and his daughter, would not let me pause here; nor could I get quit of him till he had explained to me how the Bishop rallied him upon his blunder, and how he got a living in Norfolk, where his sporting propensities were fully gratified, and whence his excursions to Newmarket produced that gentle remonstrance from another Prelate, of which he had just given me the description. “ The acquisition of this preserment,” said he, “ accelerated my happiness. Never shall I forget the strange embarrassments of our wedding-day, or rather evening! Sarah, as she still has, had then a great dislike to show or affectation, and we determined, when the happy hour was fixed, to take it quietly, and resolved, as we were to start for Norfolk, to have no favours, no ringings, no noises, no déjeûnérs, nor anything of the kind; but to take our dinner domestically with my mother-in-law, and start in the evening with no servant but Sarah's maid, and so sleep at Chelmsford-at the Black Boy, a remarkably good inn in those days—did not send down for rooms-afraid of being found out, and didn't like being laughed at.-Wedding over-Sarah and I one-we fulfilled all our intentions, were kissed and blessed by the amiable Mrs. Grimsthorpe, and by seven o'clock packed in our postchaise--away we went-post-boy in the dark, both as to the night and as to the matrimonial part of our expedition-changed at Romford, and reached the wished-for inn at a quarter after ten. Waiters, chambermaids, ostlers, and landlord in a moment were at the carriage-door. Down went the steps—up came mine host.
* Very sorry, Sir,' said he,' we have no accommodation to-night; not a room disengaged, Sir. The third division of the 71st regiment marched in this afternoon; and neither here nor at the Head (Saracen's) is there a bed unoccupied. Great regret, Sir-wish you had written, Sir, and
“ Poor Sarah was a good deal tired—what with the journey, and the excitement, and one thing and another. However, what could be done ? Nothing remained but going on to Witham. Blue Posts--capital housedecided in a moment-ordered horses—took four to accelerate our movements. First and second turn out, down the yard—up they come-poke them in-boys mount-crack go the whips, and away go we.
I confess it was very provoking; but there was no help for it.”
“Well,” said I, “ you reached Witham."
“ Just at midnight,” said Wells. “ Lights in the windows, and groupes at the door ;-all up. Well, things looked better, and Sally was preparing for a spring from the carriage, when the waiter, with extended arms, meant rather to repel than welcome us, sang the second part of the Chelmsford tune, by informing us that we couldn't have a bed in Witham, as the second division of the 71st Foot had marched in that afternoon, and occupied every available apartment.
" This was enough to try the patience of Job. I swore, and Sarah
cried; but all in vain. We had, as in the former case, no resource but proceeding to Colchester, where the more extensive means of accommodation gave us hopes that, even at the late hour at which we should reach it, we might find shelter; and, accordingly, two elderly post-boys were aroused from their slumbers, and mounted upon jaded horses, which, however, by dint of flogging, arrived in front of the Cups, in Colchester, at about half-past one, where, to our great delight, we found everything remarkably lively and gay.
. “* Can we have rooms ?' said 1, in a tone of anxiety not to be described.
“'Yes, Sir; sitting-room and bed-room directly,' said the waiter. • Beg to apologise, Sir, for the sitting-room-down stairs; but the first division of the 71st regiment marched in here this afternoon, and the officers are giving a dinner to the Mayor and several members of the Corporation, Sir.'
Oh,' said I,“ never mind the Mayor and Corporation : show us to our rooms; for we are tired to death.'
“• This way, Sir,' said the man, who was speedily joined by a chambermaid; and together they ushered us into a parlour on the left-hand of the gateway, in which parlour stage-coach passengers were fed in the daytime.
«s • Which do you like, Ma'am,' said the maid to Sarah, the featherbed a-top or the mattress ?'
“ The question, under the circumstances, caused considerable confusion on the part of my dear bride, who evaded a direct answer by desiring to be shown to her apartment; while her maid, who had rushed incontinently to the kitchen-fire to warm her feet, was summoned to assist her mistress.
" I took advantage of their temporary absence to fortify nature with a glass of egg wine, which I found agree so well with my constitution, that I ordered a second, at the same time telling the waiter to desire the chambermaid to send my wife's maid down to me. This instruction was obeyed; and I desired Mrs. Harvey to ask her mistress whether she would allow me to send her anything to chéer her up after her worrying journey, or whether she was coming down again.
But I got very
little consolation from the maid, who gave me to understand that her lady was in the greatest agitation, and that she really did not know what to do. 66 • What is the matter?' said I.
Matter, Sir!' replied the maid ;'matter enough, I think! Where you think your sleeping-room is ?' « « How should I know?' said I.
“Why, Sir, if you'll believe me,' said the maid, ' you have to go into the mess-room, as they call it--and a nice mess it is in-among all the soldier-officers, and mayors and corporationers, and turn to your righthand, right afore 'em all. It's the only room unoccupied—or, at least, as was unoccupied; and there's my poor mistress, tucked up, and trenbling like a haspen leaf, with nothing but a half-inch plank between her and the first division of his Majesty's 71st !'
“ « The deuce she is !' said I. What a state for a bride! There's not a moment to be lost;—I'm off. Poor Sarah exposed to the conver• sation, at least, of these oyxterous, boisterous convivialists !!
«. When I come down,' said the maid, one of 'em was dancing on the table, and twelve or thirteen singing the College Hornpipe; and I'm sure it's near three o'clock in the morning.'
« • Broiled bones for thirteen, and two more pecks of oysters,' cried a waiter in the passage. "Three bowls of punch, and eight brandy-grogs, cold, without
“In a frenzy I seized the candlestick; and, marshalled by my Thais, ascended the staircase, and having, under her direction, pushed open a door, found myself, sure enough, in the midst of a galaxy of heroes, military and civil, who were good enough to receive me 'with all the honours,' and a shout which continued till I had made good my landing in our apartment, the door of which I locked and bolted; and having then, with great labour, dragged a chest of drawers, which happened to be in the room, against the portal, fell to soothing my poor Sarah, who lay shivering and shaking at the stormy hilarity of our gallant neighbours.
“ It may be easily imagined that we did not sleep much. More than once before they retreated, attempts were made to force an entrance to
At some periods we were treated with shouts of laughter, following loud toasts and louder songs; nor was it until near five o'clock that the corps dispersed, the whole party singing God save the King,' fortissimo. To these succeeded people putting out lights and clearing away, who continued their avocation for another hour at least, so that our start in matrimonial life was anything but propitious; however, I tell you this as a warning; and when you carry off Harriet, take special care to inquire whether any of his Majesty's troops are moving on the same line of march.”
It was impossible not to be amused by the manner in which the reverend gentleman related the story, which was infinitely more piquante in his version of it; but still it ended with an allusion to a subject of which he now never lost sight-I mean my marriage with his daughter, to which he incessantly referred, as I thought in order to stamp indelibly the absolute certainty of its occurrence upon my mind, taking my silence as an admission and acquiescence, before he came to that particular discussion, the issue of which appeared to me likely to influence the result very seriously.
He had scarcely finished this tale of misadventures before the ladies made their re-appearance, accompanied by my friends the Woodbridges. This was a new embarrassment and a fresh entanglement; I should no doubt be presented to my old acquaintances in my new character, and thus more witnesses to the earnestness of my proposal and the seriousness of its acceptance would be procured. However, the conversation which I so much desired could not be very long delayed, and as I thought it was best to put a good face upon the matter, I joined the new arrivals with an air of gaiety, which I must say Mrs. Woodbridge seemed fully to appreciate and duly to sympathize with. I felt extremely awkward when I offered my arm to Harriet, and rather more so when she accepted it; but I was quite overcome when, with a malicious activity, the rest of the party contrived to separate, and leave her and me at the identical turn in the walk where the night before we had stopped to look at the moon!
“ The instances of longevity are chiefly among the abstemious."
Arbuthnot on Aliment.
THROUGHOUT every treatise upon longevity, whether medical or general, there runs one singular and important error. Long life, in relation to habits of temperance or of excesses, is considered as a positive term of duration, without reflecting, that, if two men, the one temperate, the other the reverse, live to the same period, the former lives to the day of his extinction, whilst the latter has been living, or rather dying, with faculties and functions half extinct, alive to little else than privation or to pain, for probably twenty years before he breathes his last. Thus, of two such cases of eighty years, full five-and-twenty per cent. should be deducted from the latter, and longevity with intemperance will no longer be termed an exception to the rule, but a case not in point.
With respect to the truth of the many cases of extreme longevity that have been paraded in all writings upon the subject, opinions have undergone a very great change within even a few years. From carelessly admitting all these extravagant, exaggerated, and unauthenticated cases, we now fall into the opposite extreme, and are prone to deny that human life ever extended much above, at most, a century. Although truth lies between these extremes of opinion, it certainly approximates more to the latter, and two facts bear very strongly upon the subject : first, cases of longevity are numerous and extraordinary, in proportion to the ignorance and barbarousness of the age and nations in which they are said to have occurred ; and secondly, in later times, where cases of extreme longevity have been carefully investigated, by those interested in the assurance upon lives, in a great majority of instances they have been found either purely fictitious or grossly exaggerated. I have now before me a list, made out with astonishing labour and research, by a person
who made this question the object of his study through life, and which contains about 1750 cases of persons whose ages have exceeded a hundred years; and yet, upon a severe ecrutiny, it is astonishing upon
vague foundation many of them are found to rest; and above all things it is to be observed, that the extreme cases, in point both of number and term of duration, lie in remote countries and barbarous eras, where registers were inaccurately kept, or not kept at all, where identity was difficult to be traced, and where men had other motives to exaggeration than personal vanity, or the love of the marvellous and extravagant which is inseparable from ignorance. Our encyclopædias, upon this subject, are little better than transcripts from one common origin, and it is astonishing with what carelessness or credulity they have fallen into the most extravagant and palpable exaggerations and even violations of truth. For instance, it might have been supposed that no fact relating to longevity, even to a fraction of days, could have been more easily ascertained than the longevity of the celebrated Sir William Paulett, the executor of Henry the Eighth, who died on 10th March, 1572, in his ninety-seventh year, but upon whom our encyclopædias and works on longevity have liberally bestowed the age of a hundred and six. In all such writings, there is a tendency to make out a case of above a hundred years.