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He who glides smoothly o'er life's waveless sea,
by the whirlwind toss'd,
THERE is a proverbial saying of some antiquity, and not wanting in wisdom, that “ Listeners never hear any good of themselves.” When the motive for furtive observation is a bad one—impertinent curiosity or designing malice—it is most probable that they will not ; or if they do, there is likely to come with the stolen commendation, an uncomfortable consciousness that they do not deserve it. But I, who listen honestly and openly, in the broad light of day, and never hear anything but what everybody else has heard, and no one had any intention to conceal, I may hope to be exempted from the sentence of this proverb; and, if I should have chanced to overhear a conversation of which I was the subject, may be excused for repeating it; that proverb notwithstanding
It was so, that once-I need not tell where or how it came to be so, but it was—that a certain large house, square and white, had windows to the ground. It was at the beginning of June—June this year was very warm, therefore it was not surprising that the windows were open, though at the close of the evening, and with lights burning. A lighted chamber, filled with living figures, is an ob
ject so pictorial, no one with a painter's eye can pass
it unobserved. Indeed for myself I never can. I have of this kind no greater pleasure, than to creep at dusk before a row of cottages, and through an uncurtained window, by favour of an illuminated rush, or a candle of scarcely more circumference, to see the unconscious inmates perform their evening task, or enjoy their evening's idleness, mindless of observation from without. The attitudes of the rustic figures, the distinct outline with the colouring obscured, gives an effect to objects in themselves not beautiful, and by the broad daylight scarcely observable. It is true, that in a drawing-room, too gayly illuminated for any to be obscured, with splendid lamps, instead of rushlights, and well-dressed ladies, instead of rude peasants and half-naked children, the painter's vision is considerably less poetic; and on the occasion referred to, I should certainly have passed on without a pause, had not something particularly arrested my attention. About the window was a group of some half-dozen figures, purporting to be ladies somewhere in their fourth lustrum-I should think nearer the end than the beginning of it. And in the hand of one, closed, but with the finger in, as if it had just been read, there was a little book-a sort of pamphlet-looking octavo, which looked so much like a book which contained one of the Listener's stories on “ Good-Temper and Good-Humour,” that I could not but fancy it to be the sanie. The ladies were in conversation
very earnestly, and I fancied again it seemed to be about the book. By approaching a little, I could easily hear, for the night was still, and they spoke loud. I thought of the aforesaid proverb, and was about to go away, when looking again within, I perceived that none but
ladies were there. VOL. II.
By the shadows of lesser figures in the distance, I began to apprehend it was a school, or a place of education of some sort; extremely comfortable, as, contrary to my former observations, I must allow, it locked. This was the Listener's peculiar province. A better motive than curiosity arose. It was desi. rable, for my young readers' sake, that I should know the effect of my observations on their minds ; that if it had been other than I desired, I might take occasion to correct my own mistake, or theirs. Certain of the goodness of my motive, and of the use to be made of what I heard, I resolved to take the risk of its not being agreeable to myself, and cautiously approached the window. The Listener's observations were, as I had fancied, the subject of their discussion. If I repeat any thing favourable to myself, I beg my doing so may not be construed into a desire to circulate my own praises. My motive will be shortly seen. The ladies were not, as I found, quite satisfied with my definitions of Good-temper and Good-humour; some thought the terms should have been Good-temper and Good-disposition, expelling poor Good-humour altogether. The criticisms, however, were but few, while the observa
the whole were treated with unbounded applause.
The giris declared that nothing could be more natural: they had witnessed all and every of the circumstances related, even to the unboiled egg, the open window, and the kicking of the dog. What wonder, with the experience of full fifteen years, and some three more to that? One knew an old woman who did exactly so: and one a young girl who was exactly like this: another remembered a certain party in which the very thing happened. Another had the whole of her last holidays spoiled
by the ill-humour of her friends, and seemed not without apprehension that the next would be so too; unless the Listener had been there before her, and carried conviction and reformation on its wing. And then came the praises. Nothing could be more desirable than to expose and ridicule such inconsistencies. They had thought at the time it was all exceedingly sinful: and that aunts, cousins, and friends, had shown tempers very little consistent with Christian principles; the wisdom of age, and the suavity of youth. They thought such a one could not read the character of Amelia, without applying it to herself. Such a one must surely take the hint. They hoped the world would mend by it, and then
they should not be annoyed as they had been. They should never see any one out of humour, without thinking of it, and longing to read it to them, that they might see themselves and be ashamed. I was extremely obliged to my friends—as how could I be otherwise ?—and so doubtless is the world, and all those whom they desired to correct by my means ; particularly as the object was their own immediate benefit. I thanked them in the silence of
my heart, and walked away.
In the vacation immediately following this event, I was introduced to a family, where, as a part of the domestic circle, I quickly recognised two of my former friends of the window: no wonder I remembered them, for they were the two that had been loudest in my praise. Certainly, had I wanted a portrait of Good-humour, I could not have chosen better than in these two girls. They were fresh and beautiful as the first blush of morning. Their bright blue eyes sparkled with perpetual glee: their fine elastic forms seemed equally at ease in motion and at rest : mirth played innocently on their ruby lips.
I can compare them to nothing but the first blown rose of summer, before one drop of rain has soiled its petals. The cherished objects of parental care, surrounded with luxury, and expectant of future wealth, they seemed to live but to be loved, to breathe but to be happy.
It chanced that, in this family, besides the parents and some other inmates, there was one isolated being, remarkable in contrast with the rest. She might be thirty, she might be forty, or almost fifty : it did not signify—she looked is if she thought so. Her features might not have been always without interest; but in the drawn and half-shut nostril, and the close pressure of the lips, there was an expression not altogether pleasing. Green and yellow sickliness was the predominant character; though, in the dim, diminished eye, an acute observer might still discover what had once been vivacity and feeling. Mabel was but little past the age of her beautiful cousins, when in one day the promise of her life was blighted. Sorrow, acting upon a mind enervated by indulgence, and a constitution naturally weak, implanted the seeds of a chronic disorder, which, without immediately tending to the dissolution of life, had decided the tenor of it to be that of perpetual and remediless sickness. When Mabel's heart became a joyless blank, she had not wherewith to fill it from above. She became fretful from disappointment, and irritable from suffering; and the world, that saw the change, but knew nothing of the cause, still further soured her temper by harshness and neglect. Now, she was a devoted Christian; and in becoming so, had become benevolent, and generally cheerful. Nobody heard Mabel complain of the early blighting of her earthly hopes, or the perpetual suffering of which she was the