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However liberal the world may be in measuring a man's fortune, they seldom extend the same generous estimate to his actions and morals, but are exceedingly prone to deduct from his honour and honesty, at least as much as they have added to his wealth. So it fared with Chilvers.-They were willing to overlook his whims and caprices, and even tolerate his old white hat, but there was really no shutting their eyes to the improper nature of the connexion with this pretended widow, this Mrs. Hall, or Ball, or whatever he called her; and, indeed, it was obviously an old affair, for the brat of a child was the very picture of him. He might, at least, have concealed the creature, and not have brought her into his own house, and under the very noses of such universally allowed-to-be-respectable people as the inhabitants of C- Row. Miss Briggs again took the lead on this momentous abomination; and although, but a very few days before, she had been heard to pronounce him remarkably good-looking for a middle-aged man, she now, with a toss of ineffable anger and disdain, most energetically termed him a good-for-nothing, nasty, old fellow; and the obsequious village re-echoed the assertion. Footmen, boys, and maids, no longer lifted his latch with cards of invitations; and the females of the place were suddenly seized with an unaccountable obliquity of vision, when they saw him approaching with he unconscious author of this revolution leaning upon his arm. The outrageous puritans instantly crossed over the road, regardless of mud or puddle; some looked steadily at a sign post, on the opposite side of the way; others gazed upon the heavens, or contemplated the earth; while a few summoned a whole pandemonium of outraged chastity in their countenances, and passed him with a fling of ineffable scorn; but he was too absent and heedless to be even conscious of the cut direct and insolent, still less of the cut oblique and embarrassed. He was too happy in the quiet repossession of his house, and resumption of his studies, to be solicitous about the cause; and as to the poor widow, her time and thoughts
were so exclusively occupied with little Fanny, her daughter, that she required not the attentions of her neighbours.
Nothing could exceed the amazement of Chilvers, when I explained to him the meaning of this estrangement. Why, she is not thirty, he exclaimed, and I am sixty; what disproportion will secure a man from scandal? With his usual philanthropy, however, he soon began to find excuses for the world, and as he was highly sensitive to any imputations thrown upon his relative, though utterly callous to them in his own person, he consulted me as to what conduct he could adopt, so as to silence calumny, and yet afford the shelter of his roof to this destitute widow. None, I replied, but by marrying her. With all my heart, he rejoined, if Mrs. Ball will give her consent. Already deeply impressed with gratitude and esteem, weary of struggling with misfortune, and anxious to procure a protector for her little portionless daughter, this simple-minded and kindhearted woman did not hesitate in accepting his hand; -the marriage took place, and Chilvers, who was before an old rogue, and an old sinner, was instantly converted, in the village vocabulary, into an old fool and an old dotard. This union, dictated solely by benevolence on one side, by gratitude and maternal solicitude on the other, without a particle of love on either, was, without exception, the happiest and most undisturbed that has ever fallen within my observation. And yet there was no intellectual congruity between them; she was an uneducated, simple woman; he was a profound, original, and elemental philosopher. But there was affinity and sympathy in their kind and generous hearts; he had found an object for the overflowings of his benevolent bosom, and she looked up to her benefactor with a mixture of filial and conjugal affection. This case may have been an exception to the general rule, but it certainly afforded a proof that disproportion of age is not necessarily incompatible with married happiness.Theirs was unbroken except by Death; and he, alas! unlike Miss Briggs, came but too soon to visit the cot
tage, in spite of the imputed mistress, and even of the old white hat..
Chilvers had a mortal antipathy to all interference in parochial affairs, deeming them the infallible foes of neighbourly concord, and the bitter springs of jealousy, bickering, and ill will. During the war, when the militia papers were left at his house, he regularly inserted in the column of exemptions-" old, lame, and a coward,” -and returned it to the proper officer, generally within an hour of his having seen it. Once he was appointed overseer of the poor, in the very natural supposition that from his indolent and sequestered habits he would appoint a deputy, for which office several applicants accordingly presented themselves; but he detected the motive of his nomination, determined to punish his annoyers, and to the amazement of the whole village declared his intention of acting. His first step was to abolish the quarterly dinners, and other indulgences and perquisites, which his coadjutors had been in the long established habit of enjoying; his second was to compel them to the performance of those duties which for an equally lengthened period they had been accustomed to neglect; and the result was precisely what he wished-they never troubled him in future. Upon only one other occasion was he moved to enter into the parochial arena, and as it occurred but shortly before his death, of which indeed it was the ultimate cause, and was productive of a little scene of which I was an eye-witness, I shall proceed to relate it.
About half way down Loughton-lane, a footpath strikes off across a large field, and coming out opposite the free-school considerably shortens the way to church. I say considerably in a relative sense, as to those who principally availed themselves of it-the lame, and the feeble, and the crutch-supported old men and women who toddled out of the alms-houses in the lane, and were duly seen on a Sunday morning creeping across it, as if they could never complete their journey, though they were always sure to be in their places before the bell had done tolling. In point of fact, the distance
saved was not above two hundred yards; but a footpath had existed, not only in farmer Blunt's day, who had owned the field for the last forty years, but time out of mind before him. Farmer Blunt's time, however, was up; he was deposited in the churchyard, and the property having been sold at his death, fell into the hands of a Mr. Martindale, who had lately returned from Calcutta, so saturated with gold, that it had completely tinged his face and converted half his liver into bile. Visiting his new purchase with a worthy successor of Capability Browne, it was pointed out to him that farmer Blunt's house, though uninhabitable at present, offered singular advantages for the construction of a mansion worthy of its new proprietor. A very little rebuilding and alteration would convert it into an admirable wing, and there would then be nothing in the world to do but to run up a centre and another wing in order to complete the edifice; while the fields, naturally picturesque, by simply grubbing up the hedges, and planting a few trees, would spontaneously assume a parkish appearance. Such palpable facilities were not to be neglected; the old farm-house was tortured and transmogrified to qualify it for acting the part of a wing; a park paling speedily encircled the field, and a board at each extremity of the abolished foot-path informed the world that "trespassers would be punished with the utmost severity of the law." After church, on the following Sunday, the aforesaid old alms people of both sexes assembled in a body, under this obnoxious notice, where they spent an hour or two in debating how long they had respectively remembered the thoroughfare; complained bitterly of the alteration; and though they were all comfortably maintained upon charity, unanimously agreed that nobody cared for the poor nowa-days. The rest of the parishioners, who were either uninterested in the question, or had not the remotest idea of quarrelling with a rich man, took no notice of the occurrence; although two or three, who had left cards at the nabob's temporary residence, and not had their visits returned, were heard to declare that it was
a scandalous proceeding-quite contrary to law, and, for their parts, they wondered the matter was not taken up by somebody. Although every body wishes to be thought somebody, nobody seemed desirous of assuming the character upon the present occasion. My friend having been prevented going to church by illness, his wife staid at home to nurse him for two successive Sundays, and though she was present on the third, and passed the board, with the usual conclave of superannuated malcontents under it, she was just then so busy in calculating the cost of Mrs. Palmer's new puce velvet pelisse with fur trimmings, which she was sure she could not afford, and had no right to wear, that she saw nothing on her way home but the shameful sum of nine pounds fifteen shillings," without reckoning the lining," which latter words she repeated to herself in a graduated tone of increasing amazement as often as she recapitulated her calculation, and arrived at the same startling conclusion. Owing thus to his own sickness, and Mrs. Palmer's new velvet pelisse, nearly a month elapsed before the nabob's innovation came to the knowledge of the owner of the old white hat.
With his usual scepticism he would not trust to the reports of others, but in spite of a recent sickness, and the expostulations of his wife, tied his old white hat under his chin, sallied into Loughton-lane, and not content with reading the placard in that direction, skirted the new paling, till he came in front of the free school, where he perused the duplicate, notwithstanding the mud with which some indignant urchins had bespattered it. His resolution was instantly formed.-How can we expect the poor, said he, who so fearfully outnumber us, to leave us in quiet possession of our fortunes and luxuries, if we are to look coldly on and see them deprived of their humble rights? Reciprocal forbearance and protection are the upholding principles of the social compact, and the best security for the continuance of the former is the scrupulous exercise of the latter. They may take the law, said a neighbour to whom he thus expressed himself.-They may take Oken