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I thank you, Noah, for your anxiety touching my welfare,” smiled Hartsfoot, “but I do assure you that I have not the least intention of doing the devil's work, nor have my friends any of entrapping me into doing it."
“Not knowingly, I knows you haven't; but lor, them saveons, and save alls, they ain't the sort to save souls."
“You have not heard anything, then, about poor Captain Broderick ? I was in hopes when you began that you had.”
“Not I; I'd give three years' wages to hear for certain sure that he was alive, and another year's to the back of that to set the Abbey bells a ringing when I had heerd it."
Here Mr. Locke and Dr. Fairbrace arrived together at the glass door; and while their host welcomed them, Noah withdrew to order up breakfast.
“I fear,” said Locke, “we have kept you waiting.”
“ Not in the least," interposed Hartsfoot.
“But the fact is,” resumed Locke, “ Dr. Fairbrace was good enough to meet me, by appointment, at poor Mrs. Marvell's, Andrew's niece, to see what could be done to ease her of some of her burden, poor soul! She is nearly distracted with all the sapient advice she gets, but not one grain of help; each of the intermeddlers having some
pet scheme of their own, and each being Popes in his estimate of his own wisdom; and if she does not choose to follow one, or rather all of these plans, however different, she may starve, for all they care. Moreover, as she has a rich, childless uncle, he is the person who ought to help her; and if she is so foolish as not to apply to him—though they know how infamously he has behaved to her, and that she would rather die than do so—why then she may die, and there's an end on’t.”
“Ah!" sighed Dr. Fairbrace, as they seated themselves at table, “if relations in particular, and everybody else in general, always did, or could be made to do, exactly what they ought to do, no one would ever be in any sort of distress, or ever want anything; and if all this A B C plain sailing routine of doing this, that, or the other, was practicable, no one in an untoward position, who was not an idiot, would ever want advice, or even, what is much more valuable, assistance. But there are mysteries of insurmountable difficulties in all exceptional positions, only known to the victims themselves. This, we English, never take into consideration, even in the broad generalisation of theory, much less by the humane and conscientious, but troublesome process of weighing and sifting, and putting ourselves in others' places. Everything with us -- Legislation, Charity, Sympathy, Religion ! itself, all seems formed out of a sort of block machinery, so that we have, nor can have, no individuality in anything: all is routine. Oh! yes, of course it is our duty to help our fellow-creatures, and to relieve distress; but, then, it must be done in a proper orthodox way,-people must be happy, respectable, or even miserable in a legitimate
As we have made arrangements for them, we classify all moral, misery, oppression, injustice, and distress, under certain categories ; people must range their grievances under one of these, for out of them there is neither redress nor salvation, nor, least of all, compassion. Whereas, if people would allow themselves to be sentient and responsible beings, instead of a mere working portion of the great general orthodox machinery, and have sufficient identity to look into individual positions, they would find that there are no two cases precisely alike, any more than there are any two faces. And that, consequently, no one's difficulties, or grievances, can be lumped in a category, and adjusted by rule. It is this want of care, and of all consideration for others, that, in a legislative point of view, ever renders most things a bungle in this country. Is a barrack, or any other public building to be erected, who would ever dream of devoting half an hour to planning and organising what would
be the most conducive to the health, comfort, and convenience of those who are to live in them ? No—the only thing thought of is to get a contract for them at the least possible outlay – which is generally the dearest way in the end—and never even superintend it, to see that the contract is carried out properly so far as it goes.”
“ Too true," assented Locke and Hartsfoot.
And then the latter, giving vent to the thought appermost in his mind, said
“Have you been able to glean any intelligence about poor young Broderick ?”!
“I am sorry to say,” replied Locke, “ that I have not; but I was not a little disgusted yesterday at hearing a conclave of dowagers, with husband-wanting daughters, at the Duchess of Newcastle's, pitying-within his hearing, of course— poor dear Sir Allen ! and lamenting how ill he was looking from grief at his son's disappearance and his sister's death, and that really he must be a man of great sensibility (!) to take things so much to heart, and how they wished—no doubt of it!-that he could form some new ties to prevent his brooding so much over his losses !! »
“Oh!" said Hartsfoot, "I feel so full of gall as to be quite wicked, when I look round the world and see how guilt flourishes—how virtue suffers ; to see how selfishness, injustice, pride,
and cruelty prosper, increase, and luxuriate ; while the disinterested, the just, the merciful, the generous, the unassuming, not only fail, suffer, and lose, but are run over and mangled by the gilded chariot wheels of infamy !”
“Aye, truly,” said Dr. Fairbrace," while we only feel and writhe under it, and are not sufficiently cool to reflect upon it, this dark tortuous mystery is the greatest trial and touchstone of our faith ; but we must remember that we are specifically told that the wicked shall prosper in this world-in fact, that it is their world, and all things prove it. So we must not be too hard upon the devil for his one virtue of taking care of his own.”
“We must also recollect,” said Locke, “ that clever bad men-and no man can be successfully bad without being clever-invariably contrive to varnish and conceal their iniquity by false rumours and purchased panegyrics ; for they never lose sight of Horace's too true assertionthat the world is invariably less influenced by those things which are subjecta oculis than those which are demissa per aurem.
And thus they find their account in the oblivious eyes and retentive ears of a somewhat asinine and always indifferent public.” “ That is quite true; for apathy is naturally
; the inseparable shadow of our national selfishness.'