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Amelia wished to consent—why not serve another when they could ? Susan was positive against it; she was ashamed to acknowledge the acquaintance. Amelia thought this a selfish reason for refusing those who had been kind to them; particularly when they would be served as well as gratified. Susan did not wish to serve them. Why should she put herself out of the way to serve people she did not care for ? Indeed she did not like them—they behaved
very ill about an affair last year, and she was glad of an opportunity of showing them she resented it. Amelia could not bear to give them the pain of a refusal—she would go to Mrs. B. herself, and tell her the wishes of the D.’s, and what very good sort of people they were. Susan protested she should not, or she would tell fifty things about them to Mrs. B., and thereupon put herself into a most formidable passion, made up of reproaches to her cousin, and vengeance on the D.'s for their presumption.
At home, the same game went on perpetually. Amelia was the very torment of the house, by her perpetual peevishness. There was not one of her acquaintance liked her; for if she liked them, she would not show it. Yet if one, any one, was in want of anything—in distress about anything—nothing to Amelia was too much trouble, or too much sacrifice. Though she would not put down her book to amuse her best friend when present, she never was heard to utter a harsh word against her bitterest enemy when absent. Susan on the contrary, was the very charm, and spirit, and comfort of the family. Whatever was wrong, her good-humour put it right. Every body else might be attended to first, Susan was never impatient. Praise her, she would kiss
you with delight; reprove her, she would not recrimi
nate a word. The whims and fancies of those about her were only opportunities for showing her conciliating and self-forgetting disposition: she seemed to perceive them, only to accommodate to them as much as possible surrounding circumstances. But Susan was resentful when wronged, and implacable when offended, and selfish when any material interest was in question.
I saw these girls become wives and mothers; living in domestic prosperity under the influence of religious principle; and eventually falling into sudden adversity. Susan now knew that she was resentful, implacable, and self-interested: and she knew that these passions were deeply sinful. She knew that the favour her good-humour won her from the world, was a poor equivalent for the approbation of Him who in secret beheld the obliquity of her character. Bitter indeed was her secret anguish, when she felt these tempers rising in her bosom. Ceaseless were the prayers
that went up to heaven for power to subdue them: and not less severe the struggles outwardly to restrain them. When they broke forth into action, she made, as soon as she recovered herself, every possible reparation. Meantime her house was the happiest of houses; religion seemed to be the parent of the loveliness it assumed, and nowhere was it so beloved and so admired. Servants served willingly a mistress who was sure to be pleased with their services, and patient of their faults. The husband adored a woman who, come home in what humour he would, was always in a humour to accommodate herself to his. The children—(there is nothing on earth so catching as good-humour)every body in the house—was happy: and though now and then mamma did still become excited, and exhibited symptoms of a proud self-will, husband
and children were content to wait recovery; as the privileged possessor of cloudless skies abides the summer storm, sure to be followed by months of unbroken sunshine. And when the time of adversity arrived, while the evil spirit sunk before the humbling stroke, the gay good-humour shone with treble lustre. With the same cheerfulness with which she once commanded a retinue of servants, she now did their work. If the husband missed the luxuries of his table, he never missed the smile with which he was welcomed to it. If want and disease preyed upon her frame, no one heard of it: she had time for every thing, strength for every thing, spirits for every thing. The vulgarity and narrow-mindedness of those among whom she was now cast, never seemed to annoy Susan, or disgust her; and therefore her superiority never gave offence to them, though it secretly governed and guided them to good. Contrite and ashamed of her faults, Susan claimed no merit for her good-humour: nor indeed was it any; for it was the gift of nature: but it was beautiful; it repaired every thing to her family; it was adored by all, and the name of God had honour by her means.
Amelia had a kind husband and good children: but they could not please her: she had servants, but they would not stay with her; abundance, but she would not enjoy it; religion, but she made it unamiable. Her husband had bad health ; she nursed him with devoted and anxious fondness, when he was ill, and teased him ill again with petty annoyances, as soon as he began to recover.
If she was indisposed, nobody else might enjoy their health. The children could not get through their lessons because mamma was out of humour—the servants neglected their work because mistress was cross;
the friends would not accept the husband's invitations for fear madam should be in an ill-humuour. The poor were loaded with her bounties, and worn out of their lives with her ill-humoured interference. Providence, I hope, had thanks in secret for her abundant blessings; but there was only fretting and grumbling before men. Amelia was religious. She would have sacrificed her dearest interest for religion; I believe she would have gone to the stake for it. But it never came to Amelia's mind that trifling ill-humours were sins. She knew she loved her fellow-creatures, and spent her life in serving them: she loved God, and would forego any desire rather than break his laws deliberately ; and she laboured incessantly to instruct and influence others to his service.
Whether that she found no direct law against illhumour; or whether that, by long indulged habit, she had become insensible to her own fretfulness, I know not; but I have little reason to think she prayed earnestly against it; since I never saw the effect of prayer in adequate improvement. And when poverty came, trebly imbittered was the draught she mixed of it, by her querulous and fretful humour. Her husband, feeling himself the cause, though blameless, of her troubles, was wounded and heart-rent with every fresh betrayal of her selfish sensibility. Her children, the objects of her peevish anxieties and fretful cares, were discouraged, by finding themselves a source of uneasiness instead of comfort. Those among whom she was cast, falsely attributed to pride and contempt her unconcialiting
As ungraciously as she once conferred favours, she now received them, and was thought ungrateful, as she before was thought unfeelingthough, in fact, she was neither. Amelia talked of
the comforts of religion, expressed herself acquiescent in the will of Heaven, which I really believe she felt, but no one believed her, from the tone of whining discontent with which she spoke, and the impatience of every little contradiction or incommodity that intervened while she was speaking. Why does not religion make her happy ?-Why does not religion make her amiable ? were the questions asked by those who knew not. Those who knew, were aware that religion, beautiful ever in itself, was disguised by the peevishness of long-indulged, and now, perhaps, unvanquishable ill-humour. Humanity cannot say that Amelia ever injured intentionally any human being: piety cannot say Amelia disgraced her professions of it, by any act of deliberate selfishness, injustice, or inhumanity. Yet few persons, in the sum total, ever gave more pain, or spoiled more enjoyment, than poor Amelia.
My tale is told. If it be thought Good-temper is the better character, I have no objection: one fault is not the less a fault for the discovery of a worse. My object was to illustrate the difference: not to palliate either.