Chapter 17

 Meaning to remain some time in a certain town to which he came, the Captain had his horse put out to pasture, and took private lodgings. The first day at dinner, he was struck with the appearance of a young man who sat at table, but could not be said to dine with them; for except a little water and a bit of bread, he ate or drank nothing; and though sometimes addressed, he made no answer. There was a settled melancholy in his countenance, and he often sighed deeply. He had been in this house six weeks, and had behaved uniformly in the same manner. In the evening he would walk by himself till midnight. Whence he came, or what was his object, no one knew. He had bespoke a back room, and wished to have one where there was but little light; also, that a little water, and a bit of bread might be sent when he should require it. The landlady not choosing to have a person in the house who was unwilling to be seen, declined the circumstance of sending in provisions to his room; but thought it proper he should come to table; he did so; but entered into no conversation, though much pains was taken to engage him. He had paid his boarding regularly, and did not seem to be in want of money. This was the account given by the family, when the young man retired from dinner.

The Captain’s curiosity was much excited; for being a philanthropic man, he found himself interested in the history of this person. Taking an opportunity that very evening, when the young man was walking in the back porch, he joined him, and with the bluntness of a plain man, accosted him. Sir, said he, it is from no motive of vain curiosity, that I thus address you. It is from a disposition to know and alleviate your griefs. For it is evident to me that something hangs heavy on your mind. I am a man, as you see, advanced in life, and have had some experience. It is possible it may be in my power to say or do something that may serve you; at least, it is my disposition to soothe your melancholy. If it should be an unfortunate murder, the guilt of which lies upon your mind, you will find no accuser in me; I shall preserve a secret obtained in this manner. Probably it may have been a duel, and with such alleviating circumstances, that though the law would take hold of it, humanity will excuse.

The young man finding the charge of murder, or suspicion of it, ready to be fixed upon him, spoke. Said he, I am no murderer, but a murdered man myself. I am in love with a young woman of the most celestial beauty, but of a cruel heart.

The beauty may be more in your brain, than in her face, said the Captain; for, as the poet says,

"The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet,
Are of imagination all compact,
One sees more devils than vast Hell can hold;
That is the madman: The other, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt."

I am not unacquainted with the nature of this passion; and I have seen a gypsey myself, in my time, that has had dominion over me. Perhaps I may have been carried to as much extravagance as other people; and therefore am a proper person to advise against it. A principal source of my extravagance, was an opinion that the jade who had hold of my affections at the time, would pity me when she heard of the pain which her beauty gave me; that she would be afraid I would hang myself for her sake; that she would come to soothe and caress me, in order to prevent it. Far from it. My uneasiness was the proof of her power to wound; and the more distress I felt, the greater credit to her beauty. She would not have lost a sigh which she caused me for any consideration. My lamentations were as agreeable to her, as the groans of the damned are to the devil. And so it must be with every woman; because self-love induces it. Hanging is the last thing they would be at. If they could get the lover brought to this, they are then at the height of fame. It falls but to the lot of one here and there to have a man drown himself for her; and when it does happen, it makes such a noise that all covet it.

I would venture to say, that this female whom you fast and pray about so much, would be very unwilling to breathe the soul into you, were it once out. Instead of fasting, she is eating; and while you sigh in the night, she snores.

You have an idea, perhaps, that you may bend her by your perseverance. That is a mistake. A man that once comes to this state of sighing, and dying, has but little chance; because he has surrendered himself; and there is nothing more to be won. Were there any possibility of succeeding, it would be by first conquering yourself; dismissing all idea of her partiality for you; for it is owing to this secret vanity, and self-flattery, that you still pursue. Absolute despair is the first step towards the cure of love. It is either drowning or curing, with you at present. As you have not drowned yourself, you are in a fair way to be cured.

I know very well how you missed the matter with this hussy. You appear to be a young man of great sensibility of feeling; and I presume made your addresses with great refinement of thought and manners. You talked to her of flames and darts, and flowers and roses; read poetry in the mean time, and thought a great deal of Phillis, and Amaryllis; and entertained her with names and incidents in romances, and sung and recited soft love songs of Amanda, and Phebe, and Colin; whereas your way was to have talked careless nonsense, and sung such songs as Paddy Kelly, and Tristram Shandy-o; and told her stories of girls that had ran off with pedlars, or gone a campaigning with the soldiers. These ideas are light and frolicsome, and co-natural to springing love. Hence it is that men of but loose and irregular education, succeed better with the fair than scholars that are learned in the classics.

But to bring the matter to a point, the true way is to get another mistress; and profit by your experience with the first. No more sighing and dying in the case; but singing, and laughing, and jumping like a young fox. Hint a little with respect to certain matters that are between the sexes; but let it be done in so delicate a manner, that, though she understands you, she is not obliged to do it. What I mean, is to make her think you would rather debauch her than marry her. Bring her to this suspicion, and I warrant you, her whole study will be to entrap you into matrimony. For it is natural for the human mind, when it observes a great security and confidence in another, to imagine there must be some ground for it. It will argue a consciousness, on your part, of having a good or better in your power. It will impress her with the same idea; and imagination governs the world.

When the mind is bent upon any object, it is relieved by the conversation of those who understand it; and as it were, dissolved with them in the same ideas. The young man was pleased with the conversation of the Captain, and seemed cheered; agreed to join the family, and be sociable. By degrees he became so; and what by the conversation of the Captain, sometimes explaining and sometimes ridiculing the passion of love; and the young ladies of the family, in the mean time, rallying him on his weakness, he came a little to his senses, (for love is a phrenzy,) and began to behave like a common man. For it having come out now, that love was the cause of his distress and singularity of conduct, some pitied him, and others rallied it with good humour and philanthropy. It had, however, become the general topic in the family, and was carried down to the kitchen among the servants.

Teague hearing of it, took it into his head that he must be in love too; and counterfeiting a demure look, and absence of mind, and walking by himself, and living on spare diet, as he had heard the young man that was in love did, he wished to have it understood that his mind was under the dominion of the same passion. This being observed, was represented to the Captain; who being at a loss to know what was the matter, called Teague, and began to interrogate him. The bog-trotter, with some seeming reluctance, acknowledged that it was love. --You in love, said the Captain, you great bear; with whom are you in love? dat dear cratur, said the Irishman, dat has the black hair, and de fair face, and her name is Mrs. Sally, in de house dere. She is as fair as de wool or de snow, and gives me cholic, and de heart burn, every time dat I look at her fair eyes; God save her soul from damnation, but I love her as I do de very food dat I ate, or the cloathes dat I ware upon my back.

It appeared to be Miss Sally, a very pretty girl, the eldest daughter of the landlady; who, by the bye, I mean the landlady, was a widow, and had two daughters and a niece with her; the handsomest of whom was this Miss Sally, with whom Teague had become enamoured. For simple and ignorant nature will fasten on beauty, as well as the most instructed in the principles of taste.

The Captain having been a good deal troubled, heretofore, with the pretensions of this valet, in wishing to be a member of the legislature, a philosopher, a preacher, and now a lover, thought he had now a good opportunity of repressing his presumption for the future. There was a young man, a brother in the family, who had been some time in the service, as a lieutenant, and had leave of absence at this time, on a visit to his mother and sisters. --The Captain well knew, that being in the pride and heat of youth, he would consider Teague’s advances to his sister as an insult on the family, and chastise him accordingly. With this view, counterfeiting every possible disposition to serve the bog trotter, the Captain recommended to him to make a confident of the brother, and endeavour to gain his interest with the sister.

Accordingly, one morning when the officer was in his chamber, Teague made his approach; and composing his woe-begone countenance as well as he could, and explaining the cause of it, solicited his interest with the lady.

There was a whip in a corner of the room, with which the lieutenant had been riding; seizing this hastily, he made an attack upon the person of the lover, in a manner far beyond what was decent or moderate. The valet retreating with considerable outcries, made complaint to the Captain; who gave him to understand, that as this outrage was committed by his intended brother-in-law, it must be considered in the nature of a family quarrel, and he could not interfere.

The advances of Teague became the subject of conversation in the family, and of much mirth and laughter. The young man who had been in the state of melancholy before described, and had been cheered a little, was now in a great degree cured by the imitation of the valet. --For ridicule is more a cure for love than reason. It is better to make the patient laugh than think.

Having now a disposition to pursue his travels, the Captain sent for his horse and set out.