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GOOD TEMPER AND GOOD HUMOUR.
Oh ! blest with temper, whose unclouded ray
I am acquainted, very intimately acquainted, with two ladies: they are cousins. I shall call them Susan and Amelia. They were so much alike, that people thought them sisters. They were brought up together, and with the same prospects in life. Now, it might have happened that Good-temper, that is Amelia, had been also good-humoured: and that Good-humour, that is Susan, had been good-tempered-and there would have been an end of my story. But the case is otherwise.
Susan was not good-tempered, and Amelia was not good-humoured, as I am prepared to prove.
When I first knew them, they were in the nursery. I often questioned the nurse respecting their dispositions; to which her answer was, “ Why, ma'am, my mistress thinks that Amelia has the best heart at the bottom, but we all like Miss Susan best. She is very naughty, to be sure, now and then; but is not so tiresome as Miss Amelia.” My own observation sufficiently illustrated her meaning. So long as things went on in their usual way, Susan was the most pleasant child in the world. If Amelia ran to the rocking-horse before her, when she was going to ride, she began rocking her with all her might,
laughing as if that had been her first design. When something was to be divided, though the nurse owned the eldest should have the first choice, Susan would say, “ Never mind, Amelia shall have which she likes”—and the air of delight with which she took what was left, proved that she really did not mind. Like most good-humoured people, her compliance was pretty largely drawn upon. It was, Susan do this, and Susan do that. Let your cousin have that, and help your cousin to do this. But all was good to Susan : she frisked about like a butterfly, that driven from one flower settles upon another, and loses nothing of its gayety. All strangers liked her; for she answered cheerfully to every question put to her ; smiled at every thing that was said to please her: when noticed, was playful and communicative; when left alone, amused herself, and troubled nobody
But in vain to poor Amelia things went in the usual way: the right way for her they could not go. When in a good humour, she was a most generous child, and would do any thing to oblige another; but this did not happen once a-week. “ I don't like this, I don't like that; I wish you would do this; I wish you would not do that.” Changing the choice more rapidly than it was possible to comply with it; and when it was complied with, not a bit the better pleased : this was the music through all the days besides. It is proverbially said of a person we need not name, that he is in a good humour when he is pleased: but this was not the case with Amelia ; she was often pleased, delighted in her little heart, at having carried her point. But she took care nobody should see it, and sat pouting on, as if she had still been under contradiction. With strangers she was extremely disagreeable : if jested
with, sulked, and turned away; seldom answered a question, but made a point of asking them when she saw it was inconvenient to attend to her. The child, I thought, was detestable, and certainly never happy.
But there came a day—I mention one—but there were many such—when outrageous noises drew me to the nursery. Susan had, in mischievous playfulness, thrown a favourite picture of Amelia's into the fire. Amelia with her usual whine, but not meaning really to hurt her cousin—she never had been known to hurt a worm—had pushed her over a stool, and caused her a severe fall. I found Susan in an outrageous passion, screaming and stamping; while Amelia, overwhelmed with grief for what she had done, was using every possible means to comfort and appease her. Though not in fact the aggressor, since she had no more intention of injuring her cousin, than her cousin of vexing her, she had forgotten all wrong ; was begging her pardon a thousand and a thousand times; offering her dolls, books; every thing she possessed, to make it up, and never even told me the provocation she had received : every thought of herself was lost in the idea that her cousin was hurt. Susan was in fact not hurt ; but chose to scream on, nd she refused all compromise and compensation.No power of persuasion or command could force her to kiss her cousin, then or throughout the day; though poor Amelia did nothing but court and solicit her to peace. When I alluded to the picture, which I knew she felt the loss of, she answered sweetly, “ If I had burned Susan's picture, she would have laughed : and I ought to have laughed, for she only did it in fun, and not to have pushed her down.” Susan recovered her careless good-humour
to every body else, but would not kiss or play with her cousin: and two days afterwards, seeing her in the right position for her purpose, pushed her down over the same stool.
When I knew these girls again, they were just growing up to women, and beginning to take their places in society. How they had been educated, or what means had been tried to correct their faults, I know not; but they were not corrected. The first time I met them was at a party, given by a lady something their inferior, and courting their acquaint
As it often happens in such cases, this party was not quite so agreeable as it had been meant to be. Some, whose coming had been boasted about, had not thought proper to appear: those who had come, were some way or other not themselves, that is out of humour; and as party-giving ladies well know, all things at such times go perversely. Music was tried; and my young friends, I perceived, were looked to as leading performers. The piano proved to be out of tune. Amelia rose from it in the middle of a duet, jingled the false note to make the calamity more evident, and bring to its height the mortification and confusion of the lady; said it was impossible to play on such a thing, and sullenly resumed her seat at a distance. Susan played on with hearty good-humour ; made an amusement of the occasional discord; and if there came less music, there came more mirth, than if the string had not broken. As notes of excuse kept arriving instead of company, Amelia grew more and moreout of humour. She would do nothing she was asked; would know nothing about any thing that was spoken of:yawned on purpose, and then apoligized for being so rude: complained of the air of small rooms, and the stupidity of large parties. In short, took every means to
expose the awkwardness and increase the embarrassment of the family.
Susan was never happier in her life: saw nothing amiss, except to make it a source of amusement; set every body at ease by being so, and made every body happy by appearing so; exerting her powers in proportion to the want of them in others, she entertained the whole party. Let it not be said that she was coquetting, or showing off. She was amongst her inferiors, whom she had not the smallest desire to attract: but she was in a good humour, and wished to make every one else so: there was no affectation in it; for if not pleased with the party, she was pleased with the intention to please her. I saw them afterwards in a different class of company. Amelia who now could not condescend to please because nobody was there, was then dogged because she herself was nobody. She could neither laugh at a good story, nor give credit to a true one, nor show interest in the most interesting exhibitions of talent, wisdom, or virtue. The large room was as much too cold, as the small one had been too warm ; but as nobody here cared whether Amelia was pleased or not, she had all the fruits of her ill-humour to her own share. Susan was just as happy as before, though acting a different part: she listened with as much zest as she before had talked; entered into every thing with evident delight, and evinced just as much willingness to receive pleasure, as she had before done to afford it.
It may be thought Amelia's conduct arose from pride. I had proof of the contrary. With them at home a few days after, a dispute arose. The lady of the first party had asked them to introduce her to the lady of the second party; partly to gratify her vanity, partly to serve some essential interests.