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chairs; show the same attention to your own young and pretty wife that you would imagine it necessary to show to the young and pretty wife of any of your acquaintance. In short, behave towards her as Lord Windermere does. You cannot have a better model for delicate attentions on which to form yourself.”
Meredith writhed under this sarcasm : but Mr. Mortimer was not a man to spare the feelings of another.
“ Betray no symptom of suspicion, and never forget that as yet your wife is innocent of any thing except an almost unconscious flirtation, into which your folly has led her; and Windermere only culpable of a weakness in yielding to a temptation that few could resist, to love, or to fancy he loves, a woman whose constant society you have left him to enjoy. You must enter the lists with him to win again the preference once allotted to you over him by my niece, and I must endeavour to find the means of conquering any predilection she may be disposed to entertain for him.”
“ If you can accomplish this, how happy, how grateful you will make me !"
“ What strange animals men are, Meredith! Half an hour ago you slept careless and contented, ignorant that danger menaced! now you begin to know the value of the possession you then appreciated so ill that you guarded it not.”
“ I see, I feel my error, and if indeed I have not irretrievably lost Ellen's affection-oh! there is bitterness in the thought I will
“ Be more attentive, n'est ce pas ? En attendant, follow my instructions. Instead of sleeping on your sofa, to-morrow, let us play a parti of écarté. This will keep you awake, keep my niece and Lord Windermere from sentimentalizing on the balcony, me from catching a cold by enacting the triste role of a Marplot on the said balcony. These points are something gained. Leave the rest to chance."
“You surely jest! What, propose cards to a man whose feelings are tortured as mine are? Never was there so puerile, so (permit me to say) ridiculous a project, and never was there any one less disposed to follow it than I am, under the present excitement of
“Do not be obstinate, follow my counsel in this point, and I venture to pronounce that you will have no cause to repent it.”
“Well, for this once I yield to your advice, though I confess I cannot comprehend its advantage."
Mr. Meredith sought his pillow that night with a heavy heart: and was rejoiced to find that Lady Ellen was asleep, as he dreaded exposing to her the state of his mind. Long did he brood over the communication made to him by Mr. Mortimer; and bitterly did he accuse himself for having by his supineness, exposed his wife not only to censure, but to positive danger. It required no slight exertion of his selfcontrol, to conceal, the next day, the anxiety and agitation that reigned in his breast; for now that his eyes were opened, he remarked with many a jealous pang, the assiduities of Lord Windermere, and the complacency with which they were received, and felt astonished that they had hitherto escaped his observation. He ceased not, during the many hours, which he fancied interminable, to observe every incident, however trivial, that tended to confirm the suspicions now excited, and
was frequently on the point of betraying the anger to which they gave birth.
Evening at length came; and when Mr. Meredith, from habit, moved towards the sofa, where he had been wont to enjoy his siesta, and Lady Ellen and her admirer looked sentimentally towards the balcony, Mr. Mortimer said,
“ Come, come, Meredith, let us have a game of cards. It is much better than sleeping on the sofa, or catching cold on the balcony, as I did last night.”
Lord Windermere looked as if he wished the proposer of cards a thousand miles off, and Lady Ellen declared that she did not know a single game. Meredith half-yawned something expressive of his indifference about play, but his willingness to do any thing agreeable to Mr. Mortimer, who declared that he would instruct his niece in macao, a game so easily and quickly acquired, that even a child could learn it in five minutes. The reluctance of Lord Windermere and Lady Ellen was overruled by the pertinacity with which the uncle of the latter, adhered to his desire; and the party sat down to cards. Guinea stakes were proposed by Mr. Mortimer, and assented to by the other two gentlemen, while the lady perfectly ignorant of the game, was placed under the guidance of her uncle. At first, she paid little attention to the play, nor did Lord Windermere enter into it with much more animation; but when, after a few rounds, he became the dealer, with a small pile of gold before him, Mr. Mortimer with pleasure remarked, that instead of, as hitherto, keeping his eyes constantly fixed on the beautiful face of Lady Ellen, they were employed in looking at the cards. She, too, when having three successive times been dealt an eight, and consequently been paid twice the amount of her stake by the dealer, began to take much more interest in the game, and evinced with childish joy her satisfaction at having been so successful. A nine was now dealt to her, and her gaiety increased; she impatiently held out her small white hand to receive the trifling amount of the sum she had risked, her eyes sparkling, and her cheeks blushing with the gratification of the new passion which had been awakened in her mind; and as the uncle marked the added beauty given by the unwonted excitement to her face, and glanced at Lord Windermere, to notice whether he also observed it, he detected an expression of dissatisfaction almost amounting to dislike in his countenance, as his eyes were turned on her face. He continued to lose, and evinced such evident symptoms of discomposure at his ill luck, as to render him perfectly unamiable, in spite of his efforts to master his ill humour. It became apparent that Lady Ellen remarked the change effected by play on her admirer ; for she looked at him from time to time, as his cheek flushed, and he bit his nether lip, with no less astonishment than disapprobation.
At length fortune changed, and the pyramid of gold which Lady Ellen had won, and to which she had frequently pointed with childish exultation, began to crumble away; as dealing the cards she enriched all the others, and impoverished herself. She now began to exhibit certain evidences of anger, and then became much incensed, when Lord Windermere, forgetful in the excitement of gambling, of the bienséance of un homme comme il faut, and the role of an admirer, evinced more desire to receive his winnings from the fair loser, than did even Mr. Mortimer.
Mr. Meredith was the only one of the three men who did not remind her that he had won from her, and she remarked this with something like a feeling of gratitude. But how did this feeling increase when, towards the close of the evening, having lost not only the large sum she had previously won, but all the money she possessed, her husband uttering a well-timed compliment that one so favoured by Nature, could not expect to be equally so by Fortune, who being blind, could not see her whom she persecuted, placed before her all the gold from his pile, and afterwards declined accepting payment when he won from her. She contrasted the conduct of Mr. Meredith, with that of Lord Windermere, glanced from the countenance of the one to the other, and observed, that while that of the former exhibited good temper and serenity, that of the latter was flushed by excitement, and lighted up by avarice. She asked herself whether this could be the same face that only a few hours previously, had beamed with softness and sentiment; and turned from the contemplation, perfectly cured of her growing predilection for its owner.
But determined that her cure should be complete, Mr. Mortimer increased the stakes, which consequently added to the excitement of Lord Windermere, until he displayed such an ill-bred exultation when his avarice was gratified by winning, and such ill humour when it was defeated, that totally unconscious that she herself had exhibited the same defect, though in a less degree, she conceived a positive dislike to him, which became so evident that her uncle gave sundry glances of satisfaction to Mr. Meredith.
The marquis as he undressed at a late hour, to seek his pillow, confessed to himself, that although Lady Ellen was very beautiful, he should never again think her so, after having seen her unfeminine passion for play, her odious love of money, and the mauvaise manière with which she lost or won.
“No," said he to himself, the illusion is over, “ I am glad she is not my wife-I never could fancy her again, and so allons to Palermo.”
The Lady Ellen Meredith heard of his departure the next day without regret ;, and reflecting on the change in her sentiments towards him, whispered to herself, “If play can render a person so disagreeable, as it made him, it ought to be avoided. No, I will never gamble again.”
A resolution to which she steadily adhered. The English at Naples wondered for three whole days, why Lord Windermere departed so abruptly. They were during that period divided in conjectures whether any disagreeable detection had been made, or whether, discovering his passion to be hopeless, the lover had fied in despair. The greater number adopted the first supposition, and this was strengthened by the unusual attention of Mr. Meredith to his wife, which they charitably pronounced to be exhibited expressly to prevent suspicion.
Mr. Meredith was never afterwards known to sleep out of bed, or his wife to sentimentalize.
EXTRACTS FROM THE NOTE-BOOK OF A PHYSICIAN.-NO. I.
“ Crudelis ubique
Virg. Æn. 2, v. 368, No bore is so truly insupportable as the bore hypochondriacal, whether the unfortunate victim who is laid under the most serious of all contributions, namely, that of listening to complaints of diseased feelings, be an ordinary acquaintance, or the medical adviser of the wretched invalid. It is in vain even for the doctor to plead other engagements, in order to escape from the thousand times told tale of sufferings. If his patient be of the masculine gender, he is held by a button, which he must either lose, or consent to listen ; if of the tender sex, the thin and blanched hand is laid upon his forearm; and when we reflect that the fair complainant is labouring under the dread of death, with an unconquerable passion for life, robbed, as it apparently is to her, of all that can prove the least productive of enjoyment, who can find heart enough to cut short the thread of her details. If we refuse to listen, how much pleasure do we mar; for in analyzing the feelings of the hypochondriac, we cannot avoid concluding, that if sympathy be a balm to suffering, his complainings, to a certain degree, must be productive of pleasure. They sooth his morbid feelings; and, in finding a gratification from detailing his griefs, he seeks every opportunity of doing so: it is evident also, that in spite of all his repinings, the hypochondriac has an insupportable aversion to be relieved of the burden which oppresses him. He loves to sit under the cloud which overshadows his mind, and to court that morbid excess of apprehension, which imbitters his existence. He turns his eyes from the numerous comforts which balance the evils of mortality, and dashes from his lip the cordial which Providence has bestowed to refresh man in his weary pilgrimage.
It is a curious fact, that although the hypochondriac is miserable if he is not under medical management, yet he rarely follows any advice which is given him. He is, in fact, in a worse predicament than Tantalus-he longs for that which is set before him, but nevertheless, refuses it when he has the power of possession.
I was led into these reflections from the perusal of the following note, which I received this morning from the Hon. Mrs.
“ My dear Sir, “I have been quite observant of your advice—but I took only one pill. Was that right? Do you approve of calves jelly warm? Do you approve at all of light puddings-bread, rice, or tapioca ? Is fish good? or is meal the best of all? I passed a good night, and am in better spirits this morning.
" Yours sincerely,
“ MARY" This lady is one of a genus, who spend their lives in the contemplation of their physical ailments, in whom the doubling of a rose-leaf under them becomes a source of uncomfortableness, who fear every thing, and hope nothing, lengthen the duration of disease by repining over its
Oct.-VOL, LVII. NO. CCXXVI.
miseries, shorten life from the dread of its termination, and with “ trembling hands involuntarily shake the sand of the glass in which their hours are numbered."* I have known this lady many years, and I highly estimate the goodness of her heart, whilst lamenting the misery which her hypochondriacal habits have entailed upon her. She is naturally kind and affectionate ; but her amiability has been overwhelmed by her disease. This is not, indeed, wonderful; for nothing so much as the constant sensation of bodily pain, augmented by excessive susceptibility of feeling, tends to sour the temper and to foster pettishness and irascibility: it even flings a thick veil over the better qualities of the heart.
The Hon. Mrs. is never without dear doctor this, or dear doctor that at her elbow; she is ever on the confines of health, but never enters the territory; is always better, but never well; when one symptom is combated, another rises up to occupy her attention ; unlike spirits from the vasty deep, they come and depart at her command; but, although like a magician, she raises spectres, and even conjures up the demons who form the vanguard of the arch enemy, yet, no one trembles more at the terrors of his approach.
The Hon. Mrs. , was an only child, and an heiress, consequently she grew up a spoiled young lady. Accomplishments were not insisted upon as a part of education, and much less the faculties of her mind overstrained in any degree, and, having a handsome carriage at command, she was rarely permitted to exercise her limbs ; thus her health necessarily suffered. She became nervous, hysterical, and dyspeptic ; and, before she arrived at fifty years of age, being left a widow, she settled into a complete hypochondriac. As Mrs. -- was never taught the necessity of endeavouring to contribute to the happiness of others, the loss of her husband, and the society which he cultivated and drew around him, reduced her to a condition almost of solitariness, than which nothing predisposes more powerfully to hypochondriasis. Although she has a shoal of idle servants, and abounds with the means of rendering life happy, yet she prefers to live alone, because the presence of even relatives, in her elegant mansion, would put her out of her way, and interrupt that routine of each day, which is the history of her life.
She rises early in the morning, because dear Doctor assures her that the morning air will assist the efficacy of his prescriptions : but her walk thrice round Portman-square, before breakfast, does not keep off a host of blue devils, which ever greet her waking moments. Like the gnomes of the Rape of the Lock, each has his peculiar province. One pierces with his forked tail, the supra-orbital nerve, and megrim fixes there; another whips her shoulder with a knotted scourge, causing that pain which is a sure indication of diseased liver; a third digs into a joint, exciting pangs to which those of gout or rheumatism are a bagatelle; a fourth has even the temerity to descend into the stomach, and blow it up to a spasmodico-flatulent condition ; whilst numbers turn the brain'upside down ; or reckless, pinch the nerves, exulting in the tremblings, faintings, vertigoes, palpitations, burning heats, and intolerable alarms, which their mischievous pranks awaken in the mind, and the bodily frame of the fair invalid.
Dear Doctor is sent for to listen to the daily tale. The hard
Dr. John Reid's Essays, p. 23.