Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

those of a well-bred gentleman. He looked pale and dejected; talked with an incoherent rapidity, or fell into a profound reverie; alter-nately laughed and sighed; and appeared so embarrassed that he excited as much sympathy as astonishment.

“I am sorry to inform you, ladies, that the special business on which my friend has come to Teignmouth, renders it necessary for me, to depart for town this evening; but I hope to be back before you return home.”

And having taken his leave of them, he retired.

“ There is a mystery in this,” said Miss Lester, có which I cannot explain.”

“I think I can, but I fear that the explana. tion will wound my dear Charlotte."

“But the explanation will not inflict a deeper wound than this strange conduct of Mr. Murry's has done. Why did he bring his friend on such an occasion, when it ought to have been more congenial to his feelings to have come alone!”

The anonymous letter was now produced, which Miss Lester read; but remained silent. On arising from her seat, and walking towards the window, she saw a note laying on the side table, which she immediately perceived was directed in the hand writing of Mr Murry. She opened it with great eagerness, and read.

“Mr. Murry's respectful compliments, to Miss Lester, and regrets that in consequence of his being obliged to leave for London before he received an expected remittance, it is not in his power to return the few pounds he borrowed at Sidmouth; but as he expects to return before Miss Lester leaves Teignmouth, he presumes

she will feel no inconvenience from it. This hasty departure may excite some degree of surprise in the breast of Miss Lester and her amiable friend, but they need not be uneasy on his account, as he rather expected the message which calls him away from their endearing so

ciety."

A RICH POOR MAN.

Semper inops, quicunque cupit."-CLAUDIAN,
The man who desires more, is always poor.

PARADOXES have generally more of glitter than of worth; I should not choose a regular dealer in these showy articles, for my intimate and constant companion. Yet, after all that might be said on this point, we must not be too nice and fastidious, and therefore I will frankly acknowledge that a paradoxical sentence sometimes catches my attention and carries my mind into a spacious field of reflection. Not long ago, a clergyman in the part of the country where I live, possessed of immense property, finished his earthly course; and as I was conversing with a lady on the event, while speaking of the deceased, she said with emphasis," he was a poor rich man.This paradox, I know not how or why (as there is nothing original or extraordinary in it,) has since so often recurred to my thoughts, and, as it were, rung in my ears, that the response of an oracle could hardly have fixed a stronger impression. Mr. Churchman, the individual above referred to, had neither wife nor children, nor any near relations, yet his sole aim and object was to accumulate riches. He was the owner of many houses and estates in different parts of the country; but, till the necessities of the state in the recent war gave rise to the income tax, and thus revealed the secret, no one knew that he had such vast sums deposited in the Bank. For more than forty years he occupied the old parsonage,

in a situation of great rural beauty, though the mansion itself was somewhat gloomy from the contiguity of many lofty and umbrageous trees.

Some persons have much property to spend, but little to give; while others have little to spend, and much to give. Mr. Churchman could not be ranked with either of these classes, for nearly all his prodigious revenues were to hoard. Those who only heard of his opulence might envy him; but to those who knew him he was really an object of pity. His life was not a progress froni enjoyment to enjoyment, but from want to want. His estates were fertile, but his mind was bleak and barren: he held much money in the public funds, but had no private personal fund of felicity. He was an utter stranger, if not an avowed enemy, to the luxury of doing good. Never, never was he known to soothe the sorrows of penury, sickness, and age, or to cause the orphan's and the widow's heart to sing for joy. Rich as Mr. Churchman might be thought by the world at large, or by those who can only form an estimate by measuring and valuing land, or casting up capital and compound interest, and calculating the prices and probabilities of stocks, he was in reality very poor. He often complained bitterly of taxes; though to do him justice, he was always silent on the subject of tithes. While Buonaparte was at the height of his prosperity, and threatening us with invasion, the Rector was visibly and migh-, tily agitated; and, from the pulpit, most earnestly exhorted the simple rustics to enrol themselves as volunteers, and valiantly defend their king and country For,” said he, “if the French do come, they will rob us of all we possess, and not leave one alive to tell what they have done." At one period, agriculture was greatly depressed, and he thought the occupiers of land would be ruined first, and the landlords next; at another, the profuse expenditure of government, and the dark aspect of the political horizon, portended a national bankruptcy. “Poor England, thou art like to be soon overwhelmed! Oh! what shall we do? How shall we bear the intolerable burdens laid upon us ?” In a word, this clerical curmudgeon was always beset with evils, and besieged by a host of fears. The lore and the logic he had gained at the university, now completely failed to furnish and fortify his mind. When, in discharging the duties of his sacred function, he sometimes warned men not to lay up treasures on earth, but in heaven not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God—they could hardly keep their gravity: they were restless, and throwing themselves into various attitudes and motions, their countenances bespoke a mixture of wonder and contempt. The people thought, and they even said, that he should either blot those texts out of the Bible, or blush whenever he read them; that when he preached on covetousness, he pronounced the sentence of his own condemnation; that he was a hypocrite, an idolater, a slave of Mammon. Now, if the man is poor who stints the demands of his body, and starves his soul; who forfeits and loses all esteem and respect, and neither enjoys the sweets of friendship nor the consolations of piety; who is blinded by golden dust, and bound in golden fetters; who eats the bread of care, and drinks the bitter water of jealousy and suspicion; who is the prey of present troubles and future terrors; then Mr. Churchman was emphatically poor. But to return to the paradox with which I set out: it seems justly applicable to many more than inveterate misers. 66 He is not the poor man,” says Richard Baxter, " that hath but little but he that would have more; nor is he the rich man that hath much but he that is content with what he hath." If the opinion of this good old divine be correct, there are great pumbers of rich poor men. We meet them rattling in their chariots, attended by liveried servants; or find them, all ardour 'and solicitude, in every crowded mart of business. When I visit the metropolis, and witness the splendid mansions and gardens which cover the environs, I can but think, here are probably many rich poor men; I go forward to the Exchange and the Bank, and find still more rich poor men: but when I proceed to the west end of the town--the vicinity of the court-these rich poor men are far the most nnnierous; being, as

the poet says,

“ Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks

In Vallambrosa." I can scarcely look into a newspaper, but I glance upon something which makes my female friend's paradox recur to mind and ring in my ears afresh. What numbers, who were once foremost in the career of commerce, or the captivating course of gaiety and pleasure, have from time to time bad their names inserted in the Gazette? The conclusion is inevitable, that those who bore the ap. pendages and reputation of rich men, were all the while, in fact, exceedingly poor. No demonstra

« VorigeDoorgaan »