within this fortnight, as you ever beheld; Mr. Nightingale hath seen him. His eyes sunk, his face pale, with a long beard. His body shivering with cold, and worn with hunger too; for my cousin says she can hardly prevail upon him to eat. —He told me himself in a whisper—he told me—I can’t repeat it—he said he could not bear to eat the bread his children wanted. And yet, can you believe it, gentlemen? in all this misery his wife has as good caudle as if she lay in the midst of the greatest affluence; I tasted it, and I scarce ever tasted better.—The means of procuring her this, he said, he believed was sent by an angel from heaven. I know not what he meant; for I had not spirits enough to ask a single question.

“This was a love-match, as they call it, on both sides; that is, a match between two beggars. I must, indeed, say, I never saw a fonder couple; but what is their fondness good for, but to torment each other?” “Indeed, mamma,” cries Nancy, “I have always looked on my cousin Anderson” (for that was her name) “as one of the happiest of women.” “I am sure,” says Mrs. Miller, “the case at present is much otherwise; for any one might have discerned that the tender consideration of each other’s sufferings makes the most intolerable part of their calamity, both to the husband and wife. Compared to which, hunger and cold, as they affect their own persons only, are scarce evils. Nay, the very children, the youngest, which is not two years old, excepted, feel in the same manner; for they are a most loving family, and, if they had but a bare competency, would be the happiest people in the world.” “I never saw the least sign of misery at her house,” replied Nancy; “I am sure my heart bleeds for what you now tell me.”—“O child,” answered the mother, “she hath always endeavoured to make the best of everything. They have always been in great distress; but, indeed, this absolute ruin hath been brought upon them by others. The poor man was bail for the villain his brother; and about a week ago, the very day before her lying-in, their goods were all carried away, and sold by an execution. He sent a letter to me of it by one of the bailiffs, which the villain never delivered. —What must he think of my suffering a week to pass before he heard of me?”

It was not with dry eyes that Jones heard this narrative; when it was ended he took Mrs, Miller apart with him into another room, and, delivering her his purse, in which was the sum of £50, desired her to send as much of it as she thought proper to these poor people. The look which Mrs. Miller gave Jones, on this occasion, is not easy to be described. She burst into a kind of agony of transport, and cryed out—“Good heavens! is there such a man in the world?”—But recollecting herself, she said, “Indeed I know one such; but can there be another?” “I hope, madam,” cries Jones, “there are many who have common humanity; for to relieve such distress in our fellow-creatures, can hardly be called more.” Mrs. Miller then took ten guineas, which were the utmost he could prevail with her to accept, and said, “She would find some means of conveying them early the next morning;” adding, “that she had herself done some little matter for the poor people, and had not left them in quite so much misery as she found them.”

They then returned to the parlour, where Nightingale expressed much concern at the dreadful situation of these wretches, whom indeed he knew; for he had seen them more than once at Mrs. Miller’s. He inveighed against the folly of making oneself liable for the debts of others; vented many bitter execrations against the brother; and concluded with wishing something could be done for the unfortunate family. “Suppose, madam,” said he, “you should recommend them to Mr. Allworthy? Or what think you of a collection? I will give them a guinea with all my heart.”

Mrs. Miller made no answer; and Nancy, to whom her mother had whispered the generosity of Jones, turned pale upon the occasion; though, if either of them was angry with Nightingale, it was surely without reason. For the liberality of Jones, if he had known it, was not an example which he had any obligation to follow, and there are thousands who would not have contributed a single halfpenny, as indeed he did not in effect, for he made no tender of anything; and therefore, as the others thought proper to make no demand, he kept his money in his pocket.

I have, in truth, observed, and shall never have a better opportunity than at present to communicate my observation, that the world are in general divided into two opinions concerning charity, which are the very reverse of each other. One party seems to hold, that all acts of this kind are to be esteemed as voluntary gifts, and, however little you give (if indeed no more than your good wishes), you acquire a

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.