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fhould have been troubled for, had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no fooner fat down, but after having looked upon me a little while, My dear, (fays the turning to her husband) you may now fee the franger that was in the candle laft night. Soon after this, as they began to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday. Thursday? (says she) no, child, if it pleafe God, you shall not begin upon Childermas-day; tell your writing-mafter that Friday will be foon enough. I was reflecting with myfelf on the oddnefs of her fancy, and wondering that any body would establish it as a rule to lofe a day in every week. In the midft of these my mufings, fhe defired me to reach her a little falt the point of upon my knife, which I did in fuch a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at which the immediately ftartled,. and faid it fell towards her. Upon this I looked very blank; and, obferving the concern of the whole table, began to confider myfelf, with fome confufion, as a perfon that had brought a difafter upon the family. The: lady however recovering herfelf after a little space, faid to her husband, with a figh, My dear, misfortunes. never come fingle. My friend, I found, acted but an underpart at his table, and being a man of more good-nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to. fall in with all the paffions and humours of his yokefellow Do not you remember, child, (fays fhe) that the pigeon-boufe fell the very afternoon that our careless wench spilt the falt upon the table? Yes, (fays he) my. dear, and the next post brought us an account of the battle of Almanza. The reader may guefs at the figure I made, after having done all this mifchief. I difpatched my dinner as foon as I could, with my ufual' taciturnity; when, to my utter confufion, the lady feeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, defired me that I would humour her fo far as to take them out of that figure, and place them fide by fide. What the abfurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I fuppofe there was fome traditionary fuperftition in it; and therefore in obedience to the lady of the
houfe, I difpofed of my knife and fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I fhall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reason for it.
It is not difficult for a man to fee that a person has conceived an averfion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, by the lady's looks, that the regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate afpect. For which reafon I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend thefe fuperftitious follies of mankind; how they subject us to imaginary afflictions, and additional forrows, that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not fufficient for it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes, and fuffer as much from trifling accidents, as from real evils. I have known the fhooting of a star spoil a night's reft; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lofe his appetite, upon the plucking of a merrythought. A fcreechowl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers; nay, the voice of a cricket hath struck more terror than the roaring of a lion. There is nothing fo inconfiderable, which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognoftics. A rufty nail, or a crooked pin, fhoot up into prodigies.
I remember I was once in a mixt affembly, that was full of noife and mirth, when on a fudden an old woman unluckily obferved there were thirteen of us in company. This remark ftruck a panic terror into several who were prefent, infomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, inftead of portending one of the company should die, it plainly foretold one of them fhould be born. Had not my friend found this expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen fick that very night.
An old maid, that is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of these antiquated Sibyls, that forbodes and prophefies from one end of the year to the other. She is always feeing apparitions, and hearing death-watches; and was the other day almoft frighted out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the ftable at a time when the lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant caft of mind engages multitudes of people, not only.in impertinent terrors, but in fupernumerary duties of life; and arifes from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the foul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil) and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehenfions and fufpicions, and confequently difpofe it to the obfervation of fuch groundlefs prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wife men to retrench the evils of life by the reafonings of philofophy; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the fentiments of fuperftition.
For my own part, I fhould be very much troubled were I endowed with this divining quality, though it fhould inform me truly of every thing that can befall me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
I know but one way of fortifying my foul against these gloomy prefages and terrors of mind, and that is, by fecuring to myfelf the friendship and protection of that Being who difpofes of events, and governs futurity. He fees, at one view, the whole thread of my existence, not only that part of it which I have already paffed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of eternity. When I lay me down to fleep, I recommend myself to his care: when I awake, I give myself up to his direction. Amidft all the evils that threaten me, I will look up to him for help, and question not but he will either avert them, or turn them to my advantage. Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all folicitous
about it; because I am sure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
Friday, March 9.
At Venus obfcuro gradientes aëre fepfit,
They march obfcure, for Venus kindly shrouds
SHALL here communicate to the world a couple of letters, which I believe will give the reader as good an entertainment as any that I am able to furnish him with, and therefore shall make no apology for them.
To the SPECTATOR, &c.
I AM one of the directors of the fociety for the reformation of manners, and therefore think myself a proper perfon for your correfpondence. I have thoroughly examined the prefent state of religion in 'Great-Britain, and am able to acquaint you with the
predominant vice of every market-town in the whole ' island. I can tell you the progrefs that virtue has 'made in all our cities, boroughs, and corporations;
and know as well the evil practices that are com'mitted in Berwick or Exeter, as what is done in my own family. In a word, fir, I have my correfpondents in the remoteft parts of the nation, who fend me up punctual accounts from time to time of all the little irregularities that fall under their notice in 'their feveral diftricts and divifions.
I am no lefs acquainted with the particular quarters ' and regions of this great town, than with the different
parts and diftributions of the whole nation. I can defcribe every parifh by its impieties, and can tell you in which of our streets lewdness prevails, which gaming has taken the poffeffion of, and where drunk'ennefs has got the better of them both. When I am difpofed to raise a fine for the poor, I know the lanes and alleys that are inhabited by common fwearers. 'When I would encourage the hospital of Bridewell, and improve the hempen manufacture, I am very ' well acquainted with all the haunts and reforts of 'female night-walkers.
After this short account of myself, I must let you 'know, that the defign of this paper is to give you 'information of a certain irregular affembly, which I 'think falls very properly under your obfervation, efpecially fince the perfons it is compofed of are criminals too confiderable for the animadverfions of our fociety. I mean, fir, the midnight mask, which has of late ⚫ been very frequently held in one of the moft confpicuous parts of the town, and which I hear will be ⚫ continued with additions and improvements. As all 'the persons who compose this lawless affembly are 'masked, we dare not attack any of them in our way,
left we should send a woman of quality to Bridewell, ( or a peer of Great-Britain to the Counter: befides that 'their numbers are so very great, that I am afraid they 'would be able to rout our whole fraternity, though
we were accompanied with all our guard of conftables. 'Both these reasons, which fecure them from our au
thority, make them obnoxious to yours; as both their difguife and their numbers will give no particular perfon reason to think himself affronted by you.
If we are rightly informed, the rules that are ob'ferved by this new fociety are wonderfully contrived for the advancement of cuckoldom. The women ei
ther come by themselves, or are introduced by friends who are obliged to quit them, upon their first entrance, to the conversation of any body that addresses himself
to them. There are feveral rooms where the parties may retire, and, if they please, hew their faces by confent. Whispers, fqueezes, nods, and embraces, are the innocent freedoms of the place. In fhort, the