It is not enough to say that the whole episode is a copy of the mind’s conceptions in sleep; it is, in some sort—but what a copy! Let the most romantic of us, that has been entertained all night with the spectacle of some wild and magnificent vision, recombine it in the morning, and try it by his waking judgment. That which appeared so shifting, and yet so coherent, while that faculty was passive, when it comes under cool examination, shall appear so reasonless and so unlinked, that we are ashamed to have been so deluded; and to have taken, though but in sleep, a monster for a god. But the transitions in this episode are every whit as violent as in the most extravagant dream, and yet the waking judgment ratifies them.
Among the deaths in our obituary for this month, I observe with concern “At his cottage on the Bath road, Captain Jackson.” The name and attribution are common enough; but a feeling like reproach persuades me, that this could have been no other in fact than my dear old friend, who some five-and-twenty years ago rented a tenement, which he was pleased to dignify with the appellation here used, about a mile from Westbourn Green. Alack, how good men, and the good turns they do us, slide out of memory, and are recalled but by the surprise of some such sad memento as that which now lies before us!
He whom I mean was a retired half-pay officer, with a wife and two grown-up daughters, whom he maintained with the port and notions of gentlewomen upon that slender professional allowance. Comely girls they were too.
And was I in danger of forgetting this man?—his cheerful suppers—the noble tone of hospitality, when first you set your foot in the cottage—the anxious ministerings about you, where little or nothing (God knows) was to be ministered.—Althea’s horn in a poor platter—the power of self-enchantment, by which, in his magnificent wishes to entertain you, he multiplied his means to bounties.
You saw with your bodily eyes indeed what seemed a bare scrag—cold savings from the foregone meal—remnant hardly sufficient to send a mendicant from the door contented. But in the copious will—the revelling imagination of your host—the “mind, the mind, Master Shallow,” whole beeves were spread before you—hecatombs—no end appeared to the profusion.
It was the widow’s cruse—the loaves and fishes; carving could not lessen nor helping diminish it—the stamina were left—the elemental bone still flourished, divested of its accidents.
“Let us live while we can,” methinks I hear the open-handed creature exclaim; “while we have, let us not want,” “here is plenty left;” “want for nothing”—with many more such hospitable sayings, the spurs of appetite, and old concomitants of smoaking boards, and feast-oppressed chargers. Then sliding a slender ratio of Single Gloucester upon his wife’s plate, or the daughter’s,