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THIRTY YEARS AGO.
Manæuvring and plain dealing.
" Be just, and fear not.”
" We call a nettle but a nettle: and
The faults of folly but folly.”
Which would increase his evil."
And, since you know you cannot see yourself
That of yourself which yet you know not of.”
Or Jove for his power to thunder." --Shakspeare.
The wretched Williams, a slave to sensuality, and involved in a labyrinth by his own practices, lived in perpetual fear of losing the reward of his meanness ; of being exposed to infamy by the disclosure of that transaction which had given him the means of indulgence. He feared to thwart the perverted inclinations, or the frenzied whims, of his partner. She had been long convinced that his professions of love had been false, and that she had cause for jealousy. She knew, however, that her hold upon him, that
gave secret: and she had cunning enough, even in her moments of passion or of voluntary madness, to preserve unbroken the bonds by which she controlled him. She suspended over his coward head the lash he feared. Often she appeared to triumph in the power she possessed, and, in part, revealed the
After the last exhibition at Doctor Cadwallader's, there appeared bu: little hope to escape from exposure. Still the man
power, was the
of art flattered himself that his address, and the doctor's interest, might suspend, if not ward off, the blow that threatened. He soon had his suspense removed.
It is not well to repeat epithets, or, in speaking of our hero, I might say the wretched Spiffard, for he retired from Doctor Cadwallader's in a plight almost as lamentable, (though from very dissimilar causes) as the man who proved to be the husband of his aunt; but we will simply say that Zebediah Spiffard, on going home, found Emma Portland alone ; employed, as usual, with her book and her needle. His wife and her mother were still at the theatre. Mrs. Spiffard had, on this evening, represented the heroine of the Taming of the Shrew," a character in which her tall and noble figure, powerfully expressive features, flexible, sonorous and overwhelming organs of speech, and great discrimination in giving the language of the poet, made her a favourite of the public. Cooper was equally excellent in Petruchio, and the curtailed play being performed as an afterpiece, he had made his appearance at Cadwalladar's
before attending to his duties as an actor. Spiffard left Emma and proceeded to the play-house to meet the ladies of whom he had become the protector. We have seen what the feelings of the actor were in respect to accepting invitations to parties in which ladies participated, and to which his wife was not asked. It may be imagined that the actress, such as we have endeavoured to describe Mrs. Spiffard, would feel as little pleased as her husband at the distinction. He had talked the matter over with her previous to going to the doctor's, and she, although by no means objecting to his determination, had expressed no little bitterness on the subject generally. In truth she felt mortified and degraded :whether she played the shrew better or worse that evening we do not pretend to say. When Cooper appeared in the greenroom, she asked if he had seen her husband. He answered, carelessly, “0, yes! he is the fiddle of the company. I hope, like the man in Joe Miller, he does not hang his fiddle up
behind the street-door when he comes home. He is as gay as a lark, faisant l'agreable, and quite the ladies' man."
The call-boy cut off further remark by interrupting the colloquy as frequently happens, (and sometimes very apropos) to green-room conversation.
Spiffard found the ladies ready to depart, and, with his thoughts still occupied by the events which had shocked and overpowered him, he placed himself in melancholy silence be
very gay ?"
tween his towering spouse and her lofty mother, the three forming the figure of an inverted cone.
“ You have passed an agreeable evening, I hope ?"
“ All the great folks of the city were there, I suppose,” added the mother, before he could reply to his wife's question. After a moment's silence Mrs. Spiffard added, inquiringly, a great many ladies ?" " Yes."
All “ Yes.”
Very agreeable and amiable ?" “ Yes."
“ Ah,” thought the wife, “ the fiddle's hung up before we reach the street-door."
The lady had been excited by the plaudits of the theatre. She had been further excited by what her mother had urged her to take after the fatigue of the stage; notwithstanding a promise she had made her husband, who, in kindness, though with firmness, had remonstrated against the practice. She knew not the cause of his taciturnity, and remembered the idea that had been given of his gaiety in the company of others. The darkness might have veiled the lowering of her heavy brows, even had Spiffard looked up to them; but the thunder that broke from the cloud startled him from the gloomy musings of his afflicted spirit.
And a shower of words on “ the insolence of the rich—the injustice inflicted upon genius—the unhappy fate of actors, particularly females—" lasted until they had reached their home; where, in the happiness of innocence, combined with intelligence, still sat Emma Portland.
The quick perception of Spiffard on the subject nearest his heart, left him as miserable for the night (perhaps more miserable) as the man I have termed wretched at the commencement of this chapter.
The colloquy of Doctor Cadwallader and his wife was not as pleasant as usual with people so truly high-minded and intellectual. The subject was not agreeable. It was the untoward events of the past evening. Williams had been received by the doctor, who was a Philadelphian, and knew the excellent quaker relatives of the general, with the warmth of a fellow townsman. Cadwallader had been employed as the family physician. He had faithfully forewarned the wife, and undauntedly remonstrated with the husband. He was no flatterer.
After a serious consultation, (to use a medical phrase) with
his best friend, the doctor waited upon Williams, the day after the party, and, with very little previous ceremony, addressed him in the following manner :
“ I have come to perform a duty which is extremely disagreeable, but, as it is a duty, I shall not shrink from it.”
“ You have always done your duty.”
66 And will now. After the scene of last evening, at my house, and before so many witnesses, I must be explicit with you in respect to our future intercourse."
• What do you mean, my dear friend."
6 Sir, I mean, that after the exhibition made by your bringing Mrs. Williams to my house, when you knew the impropriety of so doing, I must coine to a clear understanding with you respecting the future intercourse between my family and the person in question.”
My dear sir, you astonish me! You know her unfortunate nervous temperament—the affection
6 Sir, I am a physician.
“ I have acted as physician to your family, probably called in because we are both Philadelphians, and, as a physician, I know the cause —that is, the immediate cause of this deplorable effect. The more remote is probably only known to yourself.”
- A delicate constitution-morbid nervous susceptibility—"
“Sir, you seem to forget, that, as your physician, I have before told you the nature of the disease. I have never flattered you,
and never shall." My dear sir, you
know “Sir, sir, I know too much. I have witnessed too much. I have been forbearing: but I now tell you plainly, that, when the disease prevails, the patient must be kept at home. The alienation of mind, inflicted by natural causes, can never be mistaken. I tell you, sir, that the true, immediate cause, is known; and a remote cause imagined. For
my own part, sir, I must decline all further intercourse between the two houses, except such as may be called for in my professional capacity.”
6. Sir, I do not understand-this
“ You may as well understand, without forcing me to speak plainer."
“ Such language, sir, calls for explanation."
“ It had better be avoided; but I am ready to give a plain answer to any question you may propound.”