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It is no great effort of the imagination to conceive that events so near are already begun. I can fancy that I listen to the yells of savage vengeance and the shrieks of torture; already they seem to sigh in the western wind; already they mingle with every echo from the mountains.
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES.
1. My neighbor was a man of expedients, and had spent his whole life, and exhausted all his ingenuity, in that adroit presentation of pretences, which in common speech, is called keeping up appearances. In this art he was really skillful; and I often suspected then, and have really concluded since, that if he had turned half the talent to procuring an honest livelihood, which he used to ponder over his ill-dissembled poverty, it would have been better for his soul and body both. He was a man that never equivocated unless it was to keep up appearances.
2. How often have I seen him put to his trumps, steering between Scylla and Charybdis, adroitly adjusting his language so as to make an impression, without incurring a falsehood, and reduced to shifts by which none were deceived, because all understood them! At one time after a week's starvation to procure a velvet collar for his best coat, his family were sitting down to a dinner of hasty-pudding and molasses, when, unluckily, I happened to walk in without knocking; a very improper course; and the family having no time to slip away the plates and table-cloth, were taken in the very act.
3. I never saw a man more confounded. A hectic flush passed over his long, sallow cheek, like the last, sad bloom on the visage of a consumptive man. He looked, for a moment, almost like a convicted criminal; but, however, he soon recovered himself, and returned to his expedients.
4. "We thought," said he, "we would have a plain dinner
to-day; always to eat roast turkeys makes one sick." There was no disputing this broad maxim. But happy would it have been for this ill-fated family, if there had been no sickness among its members, either of the head or heart, but such as is produced by eating roasted turkey.
5. Yet my neighbor, with all his expedients, was a very unpopular man. Though he was always angling for public favor, he never had skill enough to put on the bait so as to conceal the hook, even to the gudgeons that floated in our shallow streams. There was a broken bridge near his habitation, and one year he was plotting and expecting to be surveyor of the highways, that he might mend it for the public convenience, at the public expense.
6. He was disappointed; and old Mr. Slider, his rival and enemy, was put in the office, who suffered the bridge to remain unrepaired, with the ungenerous sarcasm, that a man who lived in such a shattered house, might well endure to ride over a rotten bridge.
7. There was a militia company, and my neighbor was expecting to be chosen captain, especially as he had been in the revolutionary army, and had actually spoken to General Washington. But at the age of forty-one, they chose him orderly-sergeant; which office he refused, declaring with much spitting and sputtering, that he would never serve his ungrateful country again. Thus closed his military honors; he was reduced to the necessity of finding the post of virtue in a private station.
S. I have heard that the only way to cure ambition is, to starve it to death; and all the world seemed to combine to remove his favorite passion by that unwelcome medicine. Once he had determined to have a large party at his house, and he desired to get it up in the very best style. He had invited all the grandees of Bundleborough; Esquire Wilson, and his one-eyed daughter; Mrs. Butterfly, a retired milliner; Mrs. Redrose, a jolly widow; Mr. Wallflower, a broken merchant; and Captain Casket, supposed to be a pensioner on the king of Great Britain.
9. The family had raked and scraped, and twisted and turned, to procure all the money they could; his wife had sold pickled mangoes; his daughter was sent to pick up mushrooms, in the great pasture; and he disposed of about two tons of old salt hay, the remaining wheel of an old ox-cart, all his pumpkins and turnips, and about half his Indian corn, to make up the sum of fifteen dollars thirty-seven and a half cents, with which he was to shine out, for one evening at least, in all the peacock-feathers with which ingenious poverty could cover over its hide-bound, frost-bitten, hungerwasted frame.
10. He sent for all the china and glass he could beg or borrow; and Mr. Planewell, the carpenter, was summoned to repair the front gate, set up the fence, and new lay the step before the front door; but as there was very little prospect of his ever being paid, he could not come. Two of the legs of the dining-table were broken, and his daughter was ordered to glue them; but failing in that, she tied them together with a piece of fish-line, which was to be concealed by the depending table-cloth.
11. The table-cloth itself was of the finest and nicest damask; but unluckily, there was a thin spot in the middle of it, almost verging to a hole; but this was to be concealed by the mat on which was laid the great dish in the center. His wife had spent the previous week in preparation, keeping the whole house in confusion, washing, scouring, cleaning, adjusting the best chamber, where the ladies were to take off their bonnets, mending the carpet, and polishing the shovel and tongs; and, considering her means, she put things in tolerable order.
12. An old, half-blind negro woman, by the name of Joice, who had formerly waited on parties, but was now nearly superannuated, was to come and assist them; and it was stipulated that she should have the fragments of the feast, for her pay. The evening came; the company assembled; the old barn-lantern, with one broken and three cracked glasses, was hung up in the entry for an introductory light; the turkey, chickens, jellies, and confectionary, were prepared.
13. Joice was busy, and his wife was directing, and all were happy. But let no man hereafter pronounce an evening blessed, before the hour of supper has closed. Joice had complained already, that she wanted things to do with; and on the narrow table in the kitchen she had overturned a lamp, and oiled the bottom of the great dish on which the turkey was to be presented on the supper-table.
14. It became slippery, her fingers were slippery, and she was half blind; as she came waddling into the supper-room, with the treasures of her cookery, she stumbled, struck the poor spliced legs of the dining-table, the patchwork gave way, down went the table, dishes, and sauces on the ladies' gowns; down went poor Joice in the midst of them; the fishline was revealed, the torn place in the table-cloth was seen, torn still more disastrously; my neighbor looked aghast, his wife was in tears, and the whole company were in confusion.
15. My neighbor, however, tried to jump out of his condition like a cat out of a corner. "So much for Mr. Hardwood, our cabinet-maker; I had just ordered a new table, but he never sends home his work in time." In saying this, he did not tell a lie; he just told half the truth. He had ordered a new table, and Mr. Hardwood had not sent it in time; but then he distinctly told the reason, and that was, he should not send it until he had settled off the old score.
16. "O poverty, poverty!" I must allow, poverty is bad enough, though not so terrible when it comes alone. But avert from me the mingled horrors of pride and poverty, when they come upon us together!
FORMATION OF CHARACTER.
1. WHEN a young man has finished his collegiate course of education, he enters immediately upon the study of the profession, or into the business which he is to pursue. He
looks forward with eager anticipation to the time when his name shall be honored among his fellow-men, or his coffers overflow with wealth, or when he shall be the messenger of mercy, and win many from the error of their ways. His course of study is still plainly marked out. He does not waste time in the choice of a pursuit, for his natural talents, the habitual bias of his mind, or the wishes of friends, have already decided the question.
2. Not so with a young lady. Having passed through the asual studies at school in a desultory manner, generally too desultory to produce a disciplined, well-balanced mind, she considers her education finished, or continues it without any special object in view.
3. Perhaps, my young friends, you have been absent for years from the home of your childhood; its gayer visions have flitted away; life begins to assume a sober reality. Casting a mournful glance of retrospection, you inquire, Of what value is the little knowledge acquired, if I go no farther? Like an armory in time of peace, arranged with much attempt at display, it seems brilliant and useless. You have, indeed, been collecting the weapons for life's warfare; their temper is not yet tried, but the strife has already begun.
4. This is the season for castle-building. How fascinating the rainbow visions that flit before a vivid imagination, yet how dangerous the indulgence! Exhausted with these wanderings, wild lassitude and ennui succeed.
"Fancy enervates, while it soothes the heart,
And, while it dazzles, wounds the mental sight;
5. As their only resource, many young ladies in town rush with eagerness into society, drowning reflection in the all-absorbing career of fashionable gayety, filling up its brief intervals with novel-reading. Those whose home is in the country are disgusted with this "working-day world," and its plain, good folks.
6. Their refined education has unfitted them for cordial