I have observed in several of my papers, that my friend Sir Roger, amidst all his good qualities, is something of a humorist; and that his virtues, as well as imperfections, are, as it were, tinged by a certain extravagance which makes them particularly his, and distinguishes them from those of other men. This cast of mind, as it is generally very innocent in itself, so it renders his conversation highly agreeable, and more delightful than the same degree of sense and virtue would appear in their common and ordinary colours. As I was walking with him last night, he asked me how I liked the good man I have just now mentioned? And without staying for an answer, told me, “That he was afraid of being insulted with Latin and Greek at his own table; for which reason he desired a particular friend of his at the University to find him out a clergyman rather of plain sense than much learning; of a good aspect, a clear voice, a sociable temper, and, if possible, a man that understood a little of backgammon. My friend,” says Sir Roger, “found me out this gentleman, who, besides the endowments required of him, is, they tell me, a good scholar, though he does not show it. I have given him the parsonage of the parish; and, because I know his value, have settled upon him a good annuity for life. If he outlives me, he shall find that he was higher in my esteem than perhaps he thinks he is. He has now been with me thirty years, and though he does not know I have taken notice of it, has never in all that time asked anything of me for himself, though he is every day soliciting me for something in behalf of one or other of my tenants, his parishioners. There has not been a law-suit in the parish since he has lived among them: if any dispute arises, they apply themselves to him for the decision; if they do not acquiesce in his judgment, which I think never happened above once or twice, at most, they appeal to me. At his first settling with me, I made him a present of all the good sermons that have been printed in English, and only begged of him that every Sunday he would pronounce one of them in the pulpit. Accordingly, he has digested them into such a series, that they follow one another naturally, and make a continued series of practical divinity.”
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“And this,” said he, putting the remains of a crust into his wallet, “and this should have been thy portion,” said he, “hadst thou been alive to have shared it with me.” I thought by the accent it had been an apostrophe to his child; but ’twas to his ass, and to the very ass we had seen dead on the road. The man seemed to lament it much; and it instantly brought into my mind Sancho’s lamentation for his; but he did it with more true touches of nature.
The mourner was sitting on a stone bench at the door, with the ass’s pannel and its bridle on one side, which he took up from time to time—then laid them down—looked at them—and shook his head. He then took his crust of bread out of his wallet again, as if to eat it; held it some time in his hand—then laid it upon the bit of his ass’s bridle—looked wistfully at the little arrangement he had made—and then gave a sigh.