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sulting their glasses, preparing for balls, assemblies, or plays; for a young lady, who could be regarded among the forenrost in those places, either for her person, wit, fortune, or conversation, and yet contemn all these entertainments, to sweeten the heavy hours of a decrepid parent, is a resignation truly heroic. Fidelia performs the duty of a nurse with all the beauty of a bride; nor does she neglect her person, because of her attendance on hijn, when he is too ill to receive company, to whomshe may make an appearance.
Fidelia, who gives him up her youth, does not think it any great sacrifice to add to it the spoiling of her dress. Her care and exactness in her habit convince her father of the alacrity of her mind; and she has of all women the best foundation for affecting the praise of a seeming negligence. What adds to the entertainment of the good old man is, that Fidelia, where merit and fortune cannot be overlooked by epistolary lovers, reads over the accounts of her conquests, plays on her spinet the gayest airs, (and while she is doing so you would think her formed only for gallantry) to intimate to him the pleasures she despises for his sake.
Those who think themselves the pattern of goodbreeding and gallantry would be astonished to hear that, in those intervals when the old gentleman is at ease, and can bear company, there are at his house, in the most regular order, assemblies of people of the highest merit; where there is conversation without mention of the faults of the absent, benevolence between men and women without passion, and the highest subjects of morality treated of as natural and accidental discourse ; all which is owing to the genius of Fidelia, who at once makes her father's way to another world easy, and herself capable of being an honour to his name in this.
He could never, he knows, make any figure in company, but by giving a little disturbance at his entry, and therefore takes care to drop in when he thinks you are just seated. He takes his place after having discomposed every body, and desires there may be no ceremony ; then does he begin to call himself the saddest fellow, in disappointing so many places as he was invited to elsewhere. It is the fop's vanity to name houses of better cheer, and to acquaint you that he chose yours out of ten dinners which he was obliged to be at that day. The last time I had the fortune to eat with him, he was imagining how very fat he should have been had he eaten all he had ever been invited to. But it is impertinent to dwell upon the manners of such a wretch as obliges all whom he disappoints, though his circumstances constrain them to be civil to him. But there are those that every one would be glad to see, who fall into the same detestable habit. It is a merciless thing that any one can be at ease, and suppose a set of people who have a kindness for him, at that moment waiting out of respect to him, and refusing to taste their food or conversation with the utmost impatience. One of these promisers sometimes shall make his excuses for not coming at all, so late that half the company have only to lament, that they have neglected matters of moment to meet him whom they find a trifler. They immediately repent of the value they had for him; and such treatment repeated, makes company never depend upon his promises any more ; so that he often comes at the middle of a meal, where he is secretly slighted by the persons with whom he eats, and cursed by the servants, whose dinner is delayed by his prolonging their master's entertainment. It is wonderful that men guilty this way could never have observed, that the whiling time, and gathering together, and waiting a little before dinner, is the most awkwardly
passed away of any part in the four-and-twenty hours. If they did think at all, they would reflect upon their guilt, in lengthening such a suspension of agreeable life. The constant offending this way has in a degree an effect upon the honesty of his mind who is guilty of it, as common swearing is a kind of habitual perjury. It makes the soul unattentive to what an oath is, even while it utters it at the lips. Phocion beholding a wordy orator, while he was making a magnificent speech to the people, full of vain promises; ' Methinks,' said he, I am now fixing my eyes upon a cypress-tree; it has all the pomp and beauty imaginable in its branches, leaves, and height; but, alas! it bears no fruit.'
Though the expectation which is raised by impertinent promises is thus barren, their confidence, even after failures, is so great, that they subsist by still promising on;
I have heretofore discoursed of the insignificant liar, the boaster, and the castlebuilder, and treated them as no ill-designing men (though they are to be placed among the frivolous false ones), but persons who fall into that way purely to recommend themselves by their vivacities ; but indeed I cannot let heedless promisers, though in the most minute circumstances, pass with so slight a censure. If a man should take a resolution to pay only sums above an hundred pounds, and yet contract with different people debts of five and ten, how long can we suppose he will keep his credit? This man will as long support his good name in business, as he will in conversation, who without difficulty makes assignations which he is indifferent whether he keeps or not.
I am the more severe upon this vice, because I have been so unfortunate to be a very great criminal myself. Sir Andrew Freeport, and all my other friends who are scrupulous to promises of the meanest consideration imaginable, from an habit of virtue that way, have often upbraided me with it. I take shame upon myself for this crime, and inore particularly for the greatest I ever committed of the sort, that when as agreeable a company of gentlemen and ladies as ever were got together, and I forsooth, Mr. Spectator, to be of the party with women of merit, like a booby as I was, mistook the time of meeting, and came the night following. I wish every fool, who is negligent in this kind, may have as great a loss as I had in this; for the same company will never meet more, but are dispersed into various parts of the world, and I am left under the compunction that I deserve, in so many different places to be called a trifler.
This fault is sometimes to be accounted for, when desirable people are fearful of appearing precise and reserved by denials ; but they will find the apprehension of that imputation will betray them into a childish impotence of mind, and make them promise all who are so kind to ask it of them. This leads such soft creatures into the misfortune of seeming. to return overtures of good-will with ingratitude. The first steps in the breach of a man's integrity are much more important than men are aware of. The man who scruples not breaking his word in little things, would not suffer in his own conscience so great pain for failures of consequence, as he who thinks every little offence against truth and justice a disparagement. We should not make
any thing we ourselves disapprove habitual to us, if we. would be sure of our integrity.
I remember a falsehood of the trivial sort, though. not in relation to assignations, that exposed a man to a very uneasy adventure. Will Trap and Jack Stint were chamber-fellows in the Inner-Temple about twenty-five years ago. They one night sat in the pit together at a comedy, where they both observed and liked the same young woman in the boxes. Their kindness for her entered both hearts deeper than they imagined. Stint had a good faculty in writing letters of love, and made his address privately that way; while Trap proceeded in the ordinary course, by money and her waiting-maid. The lady gave them both encouragement, received Trap into the utmost favour, answering at the same time Stint's letters, and giving him appointments at third places. Trap began to suspect the epistolary correspondence of his friend, and discovered also that Stint opened all his letters which came to their common lodgings, in order to form his own assignations. After much anxiety and restlessness, Trap came to a resolution, which he thought would break off their commerce with one another without any hazardous explanation. He therefore writ a letter in a feigned hand to Mr. Trap at his chambers in
Temple. Stint, according to custom, seized and opened it, and was not a little surprised to find the inside directed to himself, when, with great perturbation of spirit, he read as follows:
• Mr. STINT,
You have gained a slight satisfaction at the expense of doing a very heinous crime. At the price of a faithful friend you have obtained an inconstant mistress. I rejoice in this expedient I have thought of to break my mind to you, and tell you, you are a base fellow, by a means which does not expose you to the affront except you deserve it. I know, sir, as criminal as you are, you have still shame enough to avenge yourself against the hardiness of any one that should publicly tell you of it. I therefore, who have received so many secret hurts from you, shall take satisfaction with safety'tomyself VOL. XII.