As long as health remained, and that he could pass his evenings in gay society, or at the theatres, he felt not the want of that greatest of all comforts, home; a comfort inseparable from a wife to share, as well as to make it. But the first attack of illness that confined him to his room, with no tender hand to smooth his pillow, no gentle voice to inquire into his wants, or to minister to them; no one to anticipate his wishes almost before he had framed them; no loving face to look fondly and anxiously on him; made him feel sensible, that though a bachelor’s life of pleasure may pass agreeably enough during the season of health, it is a most cheerless and dreary state of existence when deprived of it.
The discovery is, alas! made too late. All that he had ever heard or urged against matrimony applies tenfold to cases where it is contracted in old age. He can still admire youth and beauty, but he knows that with such there can never exist any reciprocity with his own feelings.
The young beauty who would barter her charms for his wealth, would be, he knows, no suitable companion for his fire-side; and to wed some staid dame whose youth has been passed with some dear, kind, first husband—of whom, if not often speaking, she might in all human probability be sometimes thinking—has something too repugnant to his feelings to be thought of.
An elderly maiden with a lap-dog, or a parrot, would be even more insupportable; for how could one who has never had to consult the pleasure or wishes of aught save self be able to study his? No! it is now too late to think of marriage, and what, therefore, is to be done? In this emergency, a severe attack of rheumatism confines him to his chamber for many days. His valet is found out to be clumsy and awkward in assisting him to put on his flannel gloves; the housekeeper, who is called up to receive instructions about some particular broth that he requires, is asked to officiate, and suggests so many little comforts, and evinces so much sympathy for his sufferings, that she is soon installed as nurse.
By administering to his wants, and still more by flattery and obsequiousness, she soon renders herself indispensable to the invalid. She is proclaimed to be a treasure, and her accounts, which hitherto had been sharply scrutinised and severely censured, are henceforth allowed to pass unblamed, and, consequently, soon amount to double the sum which had formerly, and with reason, been found fault with. The slightest symptom of illness is magnified into a serious attack by the supposed affectionate and assiduous nurse, until her master, in compliance with her advice, becomes a confirmed hypochondriac, whom she governs despotically under a show of devoted attachment.
She has, by slow but sure degrees, alienated him from all his relatives, and banished from his house the few friends whom she believed possessed any influence over him. Having rendered herself essential to his comfort, she menaces him continually with the threat of leaving his service; and is only induced to remain by a considerable increase to her salary, though not, as she asserts, by any interested motive.