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“ Yes! for is not Lady Charlotte among women, what he is among men ? and high and rich as are the Hastings, would not a Lady Charlotte among them be a sort of godsend ?”
Seeing I looked surprised, he added, “I do not mean that they might not pretend to her alliance, but still so propitious a connexion would be valued and courted, and therefore a godsend.”
The thought made me tremble, for it reminded me poignantly of my own comparative littleness in my dreams of Bertha.
“ All these things conjoined,” proceeded my tutor, form, as you see, a train of inducements to this intimacy with the marquess, and yet contain no one real ingredient of that personal merit which makes a man valuable, or loveable for his own sake; and if he has no more than these, whole days with him, equal not in true and rational happiness one hour of that placid and self-approving time, when you opened your hearts to each other at Sedbergh.”
The thought affected me, and seeing me moved by the recollection, Fothergill changed his hand, and checked the impression, by adding, “ Yet you are the self-same person (only improved in knowledge) as you were at the school-house. Were Hastings so too, why should he slight you for a man who, though known enough here, is only known for the most common-place qualities that belong to youth - feats of activity and noisy merriment; while for genius, scholarship, or any one feature of mental merit, we look in vain.”
I thought this no more than true, and not the less when he added,
“ You see in this, I do not reason from the silly prejudices of many who abuse their superiors, merely because they are such, and deny merit to all ranks above
them, from mere envy. The supposition is as false as it is mean, and arises only from the selfishness of a vulgar mind. Nevertheless, as greatness may spoil those who possess it, they are to be tried as well as others before they are either trusted or condemned; and you have tried Hastings. You have not avoided him from a cowardly fear of finding him what you had no right to suppose, without proof. You have, indeed, each thrown the other off, but he from supercilious caprice, you from manly independence. Which has the most reason to be satisfied ?"
This appeared oracular as to Foljanıbe, but alas! it touched not the case of Bertha. She had never been spoiled. She, I was assured (I stopt not to inquire how), was always the same, and so I told Fothergill, who said with some dryness, there could not possibly be a doubt of it, especially as I had such good proof for my assertions; "for you, of course,” observed he, still more sarcastically, “have made yourself well acquainted with all her thoughts, feelings, and conversations; her companions, likings, and dislikings; in short, all her operations, from the moment you left her to this present time.”
I had no answer to make to this raillery ; indeed, I began to feel, and I dare say to look, a little foolish, for which I was not spared by my unmerciful preceptor.
“What,” said he, “ though you have never professed your admiration, never assured her of your constancy-she knows it all, no doubt, by intuition—knows
* Fade away and wither in your bloom ;
And youth, and health, and books are joyless to you;' While you, on your part, are equally certain that your merit in one little visit, made an impression never to be
forgotten on her virgin heart. Upon my word, this Love is an admirable conjuror, and fools us passing well.”
I now began to think Fothergill a tyrant, and repented me that I had ever made him my confidant, at least as to Bertha; and as to her brother, being put upon my mettle, I asked him with some spleen, whether in his philosophy as to unequal friendships, he thought that no friendship could exist except between persons born in the same rank, possessing the same fortunes, and even the same powers of mind ?
“It is a nice question,” said he, “and cannot be answered, except with modifications and explanations, which might lead us very far. To possess exactly the same rank and fortune, is certainly not necessary, though that there should be no great disparity of class or endowments, I think is. Yet were I pressed for a categorical reply, summed up in one general rule, subject of course to exceptions, I should answer you in the affirmative. For, as far as I could ever read in tale or history, the life and soul of friendship is equality. No doubt an equality of class, with equal endowments and perfect independence, may reduce the inequality of fortune, and even of power. A prince is a prince, though all princes are not equal; and God forbid that a gentleman less rich than another, should not be the companion and friend of a gentleman. But even here, if the stations are widely different; if the parties do not class well as to connexions; if the superior looks down upon those of the inferior, though he be glad to tolerate him for himself, there is an anomaly leading to danger. In this I speak not of those intimacies which often carry men through the world together, the basis of which is mutual usefulness. These are more properly alliances than friendships,
and such an alliance you might have had with Hastings, if nothing had intervened to mar it. But have a care, that even here your independence might not find itself wrecked. Recollect the fable of the mouse, who having done a good turn to the lion, demanded his daughter in marriage as his reward, which was granted; but just as the royal bride was stepping into bed, she accidentally trod upon her tiny husband, and crushed him to death."
I was still moody under this banter, for I own I thought of Bertha, and did not reply ; so he proceeded.
“ You must not be offended at this illustration, or think it designed to damp other hopes or exertions which may really lead to honour. It is to guard them so as to prevent their ending in disappointment, that I tell you to what you may be exposed The beauty, the delight; the balm of friendship, is the perfect freedom of intercourse; the unrestrained exhibition of mind one to another. If there is dependence as well as inequality, these are out of the question. Sultan Amurath, in the midst of his rapture with a favourite wife, who he thought really loved him, frightened love away for ever by merely saying in jest, · How easily now I could cut this little head off which I am so fond off!' From that moment love fled from the sultana, and she was left a mere lifeless automaton, instead of a warm and affectionate mistress. A philosopher, too, as you know, once said, he could not argue with a man who was master of twenty legions, , whatever he might be of the argument. So with a patron,—which, depend upon it, the superior of two friends will for the most part be, whatever the inferior may think of it. If the inferior, full of independence, sets himself up to prove his equality, ten to one but he grows oppressive, or what is called a bore, and
that is incompatible with love. He will annoy by constant jealousy, which he is afraid to let sleep; and what mutual equanimity jealousy generates I leave you to judge. But suppose the lower in fortune is the higher in mind ! is full of wit, sense, learning, genius! criticises, perhaps quizzes ! Think you this will be borne by the superior in rank, power, authority, and for. tune? If he feels himself put out of countenance, by his inferior, will he seek to recover his position by keeping up intercourse with the friend who obscures him? If the inferior assert bis equality with only common familiarity, may not the familiarity, especially if in public, be thought too bold ? Were you not yourself lately an instance of it, to the embittering of your spirit? How deceived as to this are not both the superior and inferior ! How often do kings lament the want of real friends to unbend with! They themselves unbend; but will they suffer the friends to do so too ? Lewis XV., fatigued with pomp at Versailles, retired to Marli with a chosen few to enjoy one another en égal. • Let there be no king,' said he, - no subjects; no restraint in conversation ; let it be as if the king were out of the room.'— Charming,' said they all; when the cat's away, the mice will play. Now the king did not like to be called a cat, and the mice became so bold, and unceremonious, that he soon exclaimed, “Ha ça messieurs; le roi revient.' This goes directly to the point; or, if you still doubt, try Hastings again, and though you may not trust a rusty parson like me, trust the politer Horace,
Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici,
Hoc age, ne mutata retrorsum te ferat aura. * Epist. i. 18 thus translated by Francis :
Untried, how sweet is court attendance !