« PreviousContinue »
uncle does not say, “My lord,' to him, every sentence he speaks, as the people at the public house did to those two young noblemen : do you not remember?”
“Yes,” said Frank, “I remember. My uncle knows both himself and Lord C. better than to bespatter him with his titles, as those low-lived people did.
People who are used to greatness, do not make a fuss about it. Besides, both my uncle and his friend are religious men, and therefore, they think most of worldly distinctions and possessions as affording them the means of doing good and setting a good example; and they keep in mind, that the more they possess, the more they have to account for ; and when people think of this as they ought, it keeps them from being lifted up
with pride. SAMUEL.—Well
, I do not know that ever I spoke to a lord before ; and I certainly did not at first think that Lord C. was one.
FRANK.-Why not? What did you expect of a lord? I am sure he is a fine-looking man.
SAMUEL.—Yes, that he is. He is very much like the soldier that you and uncle admired so that day when we talked about nobility.
FRANK.— I was going to remind you of that conversation. You remember uncle said he knew some who, together with as fine a form as the handsome soldier, and as courageous a heart as the poor labourer who risked his own life to save another, possessed cultivated minds, exalted rank, and extensive possessions; and he considered such persons noble indeed; that is, both in their station and character. Lord C., I doubt not, was one ---perhaps the very one—to whom he referred.
SAMUEL.-Is Lord C. rich ?
FRANK.-Yes : he has two large estates in the country, and a fine house in London : besides, he must be rich to do so much good as he does.
SAMUEL.- Why, he said he could not afford to buy a picture he wished for. Did that seem like a nobleman ? FRANK.— Yes; I think very
He is too noble to indulge himself in any needless gratification that would entrench upon his means of doing good. The richest people have bounds to their wealth, and if they indulge themselves in every thing they take a fancy to, they may soon become comparatively poor, and deprive themselves of the means of doing good.
SAMUEL.—Then do you think it would have been wrong for Lord C. to buy the picture ?
FRANK.-I cannot judge for him what would be right or wrong; but I do not doubt, indeed I know, that he acts upon a plan in the disposal of his income: and what he meant by saying he could not afford it, was that, at that particular time, it would have interfered with his other arrangements, and therefore he did not consider it right. Why I heard uncle say, that last Christmas he returned to his tenants part of their rent, amounting to more than a thousand pounds, in consideration of the unfavourable harvest; and a man must be rich indeed, to be able to do that, without exercising prudence and self-denial in some way or other. Then he is going to build several cottages on different parts of his estate ; they will cost a great deal of money; perhaps more than many fine pictures.
SAMUEL.—But I suppose that it is for his own pleasure, as much as a fine picture.
FRANK.—I will answer for it, he has some other design in it than mere pleasure. They will, no doubt, be so contrived as to be ornamental to the estate but you may depend upon it, he has some plan of making them comfortable homes for old servants or decayed tenants. He has a truly noble, generous heart; none of his schemes are selfish. Whether he is purposing to incur expense or avoid it, it is sure to come out that his mind is intent on promoting the good of his fellow creatures. Is not his countenance the very picture of benevolence and cheerfulness?
SAMUEL.-.Yes, it is indeed; he seems tented with all around him. When he said he did not buy the picture because he could not afford it, he did not speak as if it made him unhappy, or like a person fretting after something he could not get. Did
you ever notice, when Captain Tan
“I wish I could afford to do so and so,” or “ I would have such or such a thing, if I could afford it,” how snarlish and discontented he looks, as if he could not enjoy any thing at all. Very different is this from either Lord C. or Uncle Barnaby.
FRANK.—Different! Yes, the very opposite. I will tell you what, Samuel, from what I have seen both of Uncle Barnaby and Lord C., who, I think, are about as happy as any two mortal men can be, I firmly believe that the secret of happiness consists in the ascendancy of the benevolent dispositions over the selfish ones. Such men find a great deal more real pleasure in giving up a fine picture, and making a fellow creature comfortable, than they could have found in gratifying themselves, and neglecting others. You have brought the
captain into comparison with them ; do you remember how he fretted, and fumed, and snarled at his wife, and snapped at the children, and abused the servants, and even kicked the dog, and made himself miserable, just because he was disappointed of a turbot or å john-doree, which he had ordered from London for dinner ? Why uncle or
ord C. would not have ruffled a muscle of their faces for such a trifle; but would have eaten their slice of beef or mutton, and enjoyed the company of their friends, just as contentedly as if they had expected nothing else.
SAMUEL.—Yes; it was the very day that the captain declared he could not afford a guinea to help the poor farmer who was burned out.
He was rightly answered when uncle said to him, that the money he would have paid to his fishmonger would just do, and then he would be reconciled to the disappointment. However, he took care not to give it, but he kept up his ill humour all day.
FRANK.—Much good may his ill-humour do him. But I was about to tell you a generous, noble act of Lord C.'s, which I am sure will please you, and make you honour him. A few years ago, an estate in the West Indies came into his possession, which of course had been cultivated by slaves. He immediately emancipated the negroes, and sent over a gentleman of views as liberal, and principles as upright and generous as his own, to reside on the property, and take the management of affairs. The emancipated negroes were engaged as free labourers, and allowed to occupy their huts and provision grounds as before, on condition of working a certain number of days for the proprietor.
Every proper arrangement was also made for the instruction of the people, the education of children, and the care of the aged and infirm. I have heard uncle say, that it required no small portion of magnanimity and heroism in Lord C. to bear the ridicule and opposition which his generous conduct brought upon him. It was predicted that the property would become valueless; and he was charged with madly throwing away the inheritance of his family, and inciting the negroes to rebellion. Lord C. did not say that he could not afford to make the experiment; but having counted the cost, he persevered in his noble enterprise, and has outlived the scorn and ridicule which he was too noble-minded to regard, and to falsify the predictions of ruin and rebellion by the pleasing spectacle of a flourishing estate, and an industrious, contented, and grateful peasantry. Uncle was saying the other day, that so far from having been a loser by his generosity, he had no doubt that the property was worth thousands more than it would have been under an oppressive and selfish proprietor. Is not Lord C. a nobleman by nature as well as by rank?
SAMUEL.—Indeed he is; and it just makes good what Uncle Barnaby said, that though poor and uneducated persons might possess nobleness of mind and character, and some persons of high birth, and connexions, and education, and fortune, might be worthless and contemptible; yet, where the good qualities of mind and heart meet, together with the advantages of rank and fortune, the possessor was noble indeed. Lord C. is so; and I hope there are many more such lords in the land.