« PředchozíPokračovat »
woods, an old woman applied herself to me for my charity. Her dress and figure put me in mind of the following description in Otway:
In a close lane as I pursued my journey, I spied a wrinkled hag, with age grown double, Picking dry sticks, and mumbling to herself. Her eyes with scalding rheum were gall'd and red; Cold palsy shook her head; her hands seem'd wither'd; And on her crooked shoulders had she wrapt The tatter remnant of an old striped hanging, Which served to keep her carcase from the cold: So there was nothing of a piece about her. Her lower weeds were all o'er coarsely patch'd With different colour'd rags, black, red, white, yellow, And seem'd to speak variety of wretchedness.
As I was musing on this description, and comparing it with the object before me, the knight told me, that this very old woman had the reputation of a witch all over the country, that her lips were observed to be always in motion, and that there was not a switch about her house which her neighbours did not believe had carried her several hundreds of miles. If she chanced to stumble, they always found sticks or straws that lay in the figure of a cross before her. If she made any mistake at church, and cried Amen in a wrong place, they never failed to conclude that she was saying her prayers backwards. There was not a maid in the parish that would take a pin of her, though she should offer a bag of money with it. She goes by the name of Moll White, and has made the country ring with several imaginary exploits which are pained upon her. If the dairy-maid does not make her butter come so soon as she would have it, Moll White is at the bottom of the churn. If a horse sweats in the
stable, Moll White has been upon his back. If a hare makes an unexpected escape from the hounds, the huntsman curses Moll White. Nay (says sir Roger), I have kuown the master of the pack, upon such an occasion, send one of his servants to see if Moll White had been out that morning.
This account raised my curiosity so far, that I begged my friend sir Roger to go with me into her hovel, which stood in a solitary corner under the side of the wood. Upon our first entering, sir Roger winked to me, and pointed at something that stood behind the door, which, upon looking that way, I found to be an old broomstaff. At the same time he whispered me in the ear to take notice of a tabby cat that sate in the chimney corner, which, as the old knight told me, lay under as bad a report as Moll White herself; for, besides that Moll is said often to accompany her in the same shape, the cat is reported to have spoken twice or thrice in her life, and to have played several pranks above the capacity of an ordinary cat.
I was secretly concerned to see human nature in so much wretchedness and disgrace, but at the same time could not forbeạr smiling to hear sir Roger, who is a little puzzled about the old woman, advising her as a justice of peace to avoid all communication with the devil, and never to hurt any of her neighbours cattle. We concluded our visit with a bounty, which was very acceptable.
In our return home sir Roger told me, that old Moll had been often brought before him for making children spit pins, and giving maids the night-mare; and that the country people would be tossing her into a pond and trying experiments with her every day, if it was not for him and his chaplain.
I have since found upon inquiry, that sir Roger was several times staggered with the reports that had been brought him concerning this old woman, and would frequently have bound her over to the county sessions, had not his chaplain with much ado persuaded him to the contrary.
I have been the more particular in this account, because I hear there is scarce a village in England that has not a Moll White in it. When an old woman begins to dote, and grow chargeable to a parish, she is generally turned into a witch, and fills the whole county with extravagant fancies, imaginary distempers, and terrifying dreams. In the mean time, the poor wretch that is the innocent occasion of so many evils begins to be frighted at herself, and sometimes confesses secret commerces and familiarities that her imagination forms in a delirious old age. This frequently cuts off charity from the greatest objects of compassion, and inspires people with a malevolence towards those poor decrepit parts of our species, in whom human nature is defaced by infirmity and dotage.
ON INSTINCT IN ANIMALS.
My friend sir Roger is very often merry with me upon my passing so much of my time among his poultry. He has caught me twice or thrice looking after a bird's nest, and several times sitting an hour or two together near a hen and chickens. He tells me he believes I am personally acquainted with every fowl about his house; calls such a particular cock my favourite ; and frequently complains that his ducks and geese have more of my company than himself.
I must confess I am infinitely delighted with those speculations of nature which are to be made in a country life; and as my reading has very much lain ainong books of natural history, I cannot forbear recollecting upon this occasion the several remarks which I have met with in authors, and comparing them with what falls under my own observation ; the arguments for Providence drawn from the natural history of animals being in my opinion demonstrative.
The make of every kind of animal is different from that of every other kind; and yet there is not the least turn in the muscles or twist in the fibres of any one, which does not render them more proper for that particularānimal's
of life than any other cast or texture of them would have been.
The most violent appetites in all creatures are lust and hunger. The first is a perpetual call upon them to propagate their kind; the latter, to preserve themselves.
It is astonishing to consider the different degrees of care that descend from the parent to the young, so far as is absolutely necessary for the leaving a posterity. Some creatures cast their eggs as chance directs them, and think of them no further; as insects and several kinds of fish. Others, of a nicer frame, find out proper beds to deposit them in, and there leave them; as the Serpent, the crocodile, and ostrich : others hatch their eggs, and tend the birth until it is able to shift for itself,
What can we call the principle which directs every different kind of bird to observe a particular plan in the structure of its nest, and directs all the same species to work after the same model ? It cannot be imitation
; for, though you hatch a crow under a hen, and never
let it see any of the works of its own kind, the nest it makes shall be the same, to the laying of a stick, with all the other nests of the same species. It cannot be reason; for, were animals endued with it to as great a degree as man, their buildings would be as different as ours, according to the different conveniences that they would
propose to themselves. Is it not remarkable, that the same temper of weather, which raises this genial warmth in animals, should cover the trees with leaves, and the fields with grass, for their security and concealment, and produce such infinite swarms of insects for the support and sustenance of their respective broods ?
Is it not wonderful, that the love of the parent should be so violent while it lasts, and that it should last no longer than is necessary for the preservation of the young?
The violence of this natural love is exemplified by a very barbarous experiment, which I shall quote at length, as I find it in an excellent author, and hope my readers will pardon the mentioning such an instance of cruelty, because there is nothing can so effectually show the strength of that principle in animals of which I am here speaking. 'A person who was well skilled in dissections opened a bitch, and, as she lay in the most exquisite tortures, offered her one of her young puppies, which she immediately fell a-licking; and for the time seemed insensible of her own pain. On the removal, she kept her eye fixt on it, and began a wailing sort of cry, which seemed rather to proceed from the loss of her young one than the sense of her own torments.'
But notwithstanding this natural love in brutes is much more violent and intense than in rational crea