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- Tales - 30/52 -

And nobly, from the bless'd abundance, gives; The grief, the want, of human life she knows, And comfort there and here relief bestows: But are they not dependants?--Foolish pride! Am I not honour'd by such friend and guide? Have I a home" (here Jesse dropp'd a tear), "Or friend beside?"--A faithful friend was near. Now Colin came, at length resolved to lay His heart before her, and to urge her stay: True, his own plough the gentle Colin drove, An humble farmer with aspiring love; Who, urged by passion, never dared till now, Thus urged by fears, his trembling hopes avow: Her father's glebe he managed; every year The grateful Vicar held the youth more dear; He saw indeed the prize in Colin's view, And wish'd his Jesse with a man so true: Timid as true, he urged with anxious air His tender hope, and made the trembling prayer, When Jesse saw, nor could with coldness see, Such fond respect, such tried sincerity; Grateful for favours to her father dealt, She more than grateful for his passion felt; Nor could she frown on one so good and kind, Yet fear'd to smile, and was unfix'd in mind; But prudence placed the Female Friend in view - What might not one so rich and grateful do? So lately, too, the good old Vicar died, His faithful daughter must not cast aside The signs of filial grief, and be a ready bride. Thus, led by prudence, to the Lady's seat The Village-Beauty purposed to retreat; But, as in hard-fought fields the victor knows What to the vanquish'd he in honour owes, So, in this conquest over powerful love, Prudence resolved a generous foe to prove, And Jesse felt a mingled fear and pain In her dismission of a faithful swain, Gave her kind thanks, and when she saw his woe, Kindly betray'd that she was loth to go; "But would she promise, if abroad she met A frowning world, she would remember yet Where dwelt a friend?"--"That could she not forget." And thus they parted; but each faithful heart Felt the compulsion, and refused to part. Now, by the morning mail the timid Maid Was to that kind and wealthy Dame conveyed; Whose invitation, when her father died, Jesse as comfort to her heart applied; She knew the days her generous Friend had seen - As wife and widow, evil days had been; She married early, and for half her life Was an insulted and forsaken wife; Widow'd and poor, her angry father gave, Mix'd with reproach, the pittance of a slave; Forgetful brothers pass'd her, but she knew Her humbler friends, and to their home withdrew: The good old Vicar to her sire applied For help, and help'd her when her sire denied. When in few years Death stalk'd through bower and hall, Sires, sons, and sons of sons, were buried all, She then abounded, and had wealth to spare For softening grief she once was doom'd to share; Thus train'd in misery's school, and taught to feel, She would rejoice an orphan's woes to heal: - So Jesse thought, who look'd within her breast, And thence conceived how bounteous minds are bless'd. From her vast mansion look'd the Lady down On humbler buildings of a busy town; Thence came her friends of either sex, and all With whom she lived on terms reciprocal: They pass'd the hours with their accustom'd ease, As guests inclined, but not compelled, to please; But there were others in the mansion found, For office chosen, and by duties bound; Three female rivals, each of power possess'd, Th' attendant Maid, poor Friend, and kindred Guest. To these came Jesse, as a seaman thrown By the rude storm upon a coast unknown: The view was flattering, civil seem'd the race, But all unknown the dangers of the place. Few hours had pass'd, when, from attendants freed The Lady utter'd, "This is kind indeed; Believe me, love! that I for one like you Have daily pray'd, a friend discreet and true; Oh! wonder not that I on you depend, You are mine own hereditary friend: Hearken, my Jesse, never can I trust Beings ungrateful, selfish, and unjust; But you are present, and my load of care Your love will serve to lighten and to share: Come near me, Jesse--let not those below Of my reliance on your friendship know; Look as they look, be in their freedoms free - But all they say do you convey to me." Here Jesse's thoughts to Colin's cottage flew, And with such speed she scarce their absence knew. "Jane loves her mistress, and should she depart, I lose her service, and she breaks her heart; My ways and wishes, looks and thoughts, she knows, And duteous care by close attention shows: But is she faithful? in temptation strong, Will she not wrong me? ah! I fear the wrong; Your father loved me; now, in time of need, Watch for my good, and to his place succeed. "Blood doesn't bind--that Girl, who every day Eats of my bread, would wish my life away; I am her dear relation, and she thinks To make her fortune, an ambitious minx! She only courts me for the prospect's sake, Because she knows I have a Will to make; Yes, love! my Will delay'd, I know not how - But you are here, and I will make it now. "That idle creature, keep her in your view, See what she does, what she desires to do; On her young mind may artful villains prey, And to my plate and jewels find a way: A pleasant humour has the girl; her smile, And cheerful manner, tedious hours beguile: But well observe her, ever near her be, Close in your thoughts, in your professions free. "Again, my Jesse, hear what I advise, And watch a woman ever in disguise; Issop, that widow, serious, subtle, sly - But what of this?--I must have company: She markets for me, and although she makes Profit, no doubt, of all she undertakes, Yet she is one I can to all produce, And all her talents are in daily use: Deprived of her, I may another find As sly and selfish, with a weaker mind: But never trust her, she is full of art, And worms herself into the closest heart; Seem then, I pray you, careless in her sight, Nor let her know, my love, how we unite. "Do, my good Jesse, cast a view around, And let no wrong within my house be found; That Girl associates with--I know not who Are her companions, nor what ill they do; 'Tis then the Widow plans, 'tis then she tries Her various arts and schemes for fresh supplies; 'Tis then, if ever, Jane her duty quits, And, whom I know not, favours and admits: Oh! watch their movements all; for me 'tis hard, Indeed is vain, but you may keep a guard; And I, when none your watchful glance deceive, May make my Will, and think what I shall leave." Jesse, with fear, disgust, alarm, surprise, Heard of these duties for her ears and eyes; Heard by what service she must gain her bread, And went with scorn and sorrow to her bed. Jane was a servant fitted for her place, Experienced, cunning, fraudful, selfish, base; Skill'd in those mean humiliating arts That make their way to proud and selfish hearts: By instinct taught, she felt an awe, a fear, For Jesse's upright, simple character; Whom with gross flattery she awhile assail'd, And then beheld with hatred when it fail'd; Yet, trying still upon her mind for hold, She all the secrets of the mansion told; And, to invite an equal trust, she drew Of every mind a bold and rapid view; But on the widow'd Friend with deep disdain, And rancorous envy, dwelt the treacherous Jane: In vain such arts;--without deceit or pride, With a just taste and feeling for her guide, From all contagion Jesse kept apart, Free in her manners, guarded in her heart. Jesse one morn was thoughtful, and her sigh The Widow heard as she was passing by; And--"Well!" she said, "is that some distant swain, Or aught with us, that gives your bosom pain? Come, we are fellow-sufferers, slaves in thrall, And tasks and griefs are common to us all; Think not my frankness strange: they love to paint Their state with freedom, who endure restraint; And there is something in that speaking eye And sober mien that prove I may rely: You came a stranger; to my words attend, Accept my offer, and you find a friend; It is a labyrinth in which you stray, Come, hold my clue, and I will lead the way. "Good Heav'n! that one so jealous, envious, base, Should be the mistress of so sweet a place; She, who so long herself was low and poor, Now broods suspicious on her useless store; She loves to see us abject, loves to deal Her insult round, and then pretends to feel: Prepare to cast all dignity aside, For know, your talents will be quickly tried; Nor think, from favours past a friend to gain, - 'Tis but by duties we our posts maintain: I read her novels, gossip through the town, And daily go, for idle stories down; I cheapen all she buys, and bear the curse Of honest tradesmen for my niggard purse; And, when for her this meanness I display, She cries, 'I heed not what I throw away;' Of secret bargains I endure the shame,

Tales - 30/52

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