« PreviousContinue »
We were no sooner come to the Temple stairs, but we were surrounded with a crowd of watermen, offering their respective services. Sir Roger, after having looked about him very attentively, spied one with a wooden leg, and immediately gave him orders to get his boat ready. As we were walking toward it, “You must know,” said Sir Roger, “I never make use of anybody to row me that has not either lost a leg or an arm. I would rather bate him a few strokes of his oar than not employ an honest man that has been wounded in the queen's service. If I was a lord or a bishop, and kept a barge, I would not put a fellow in my livery that had not a wooden leg.”
My old friend, after having seated himself, and trimmed the boat with his coachman, who being a very sober man, always serves for ballast on these occasions, we made the best of our way for Foxhall. Sir Roger obliged the waterman to give us the history of his right leg; and hearing that he had left it at La Hogue, with many particulars which passed in that glorious action, the knight, in the triumph of his heart, made several reflections on the greatness of the British nation; as, that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen; that we could never be in danger of popery so long as we took care of our fleet; that the Thames was the noblest river in Europe; that London Bridge was a greater piece of work than any of the seven wonders of the world; with many other honest prejudices which naturally cleave to the heart of a true Englishman. After some short pause, the old knight turning about his head twice or thrice, to take a survey of this great metropolis, bid me observe how thick the city was set with churches, and that there was scarce a single steeple on this side Temple Bar. “A most heathenish sight!” says Sir Roger: “there is no religion at this end of the town. The fifty new churches will very much mend the prospect; but church work is slow, church work is slow!"
1. Afterward Vauxhall.
2. On the northwest of France, off which the English gained a great victory over the French fleet in 1692.
I do not remember I have anywhere mentioned, in Sir Roger's character, his custom of saluting everybody that passes by him with a good-morrow, or a good-night. This the old man does out of the overflowings of his humanity, though at the same time it renders him so popular among all his country neighbors, that it is thought to have gone a good way in making him once or twice knight of the shire. He can not forbear this exercise of benevolence even in town, when he meets with anyone in his morning or evening walk. It broke from him to several boats that passed by us upon the water, but to the knight's great surprise, as he gave the goodnight to two or three young fellows a little before our landing, one of them, instead of returning the civility, asked what queer old put we had in the boat, and whether he was not ashamed to go out at night at his years? with a great deal of the like Thames ribaldry. Sir Roger seemed a little shocked at first; but at length, assuming a face of magistracy, told us, “that if he were a Middlesex justice he would make such vagrants know that her majesty's subjects were no more to be abused by water than by land.”
3. Pronounced with the u as in but and meaning rustic.
We were now arrived at Spring Garden, which is exquisitely pleasant at this time of year. When I consider the fragrancy of the walks and bowers, with the choirs of birds that sung upon the trees, and the loose tribe of people that walked under their shades, I could not but look upon the place as a kind of Mahometan paradise. Sir Roger told me, it put him in mind of a little coppice by his house in the country, which his chaplain used to call an aviary of nightingales.
“You must understand,” says the knight, “there is nothing in the world that pleases a man in love so much as your nightingale. Ah, Mr. Spectator! the many moonlight nights that I have walked by myself, and thought on the widow by the music of the nightingale!” He here fetched a deep sigh,
a and was falling into a fit of musing, when a mask, who came behind him, gave him a gentle tap upon the shoulder, and asked him if he would drink a bottle of mead with her? But the knight, being startled at so unexpected familiarity, and displeased to be interrupted in his thoughts of the widow, told her she was a wanton baggage, and bid her go about her business.
We concluded our walk with a glass of Burton ale and a slice of hung beef. When we had done eating ourselves, the knight called a waiter to him and bid him carry the remainder to the waterman that had but one leg. I perceived the fellow stared upon him at the oddness of the message, and was going to be saucy; upon which I ratified the knight's commands with a peremptory look.
DEATH OF SIR ROGER E LAST night received a piece of ill news at our club, which very sensibly afflicted everyone of us. I question not but my readers themselves will be troubled at hearing of it. To keep them no longer in suspense, Sir Roger
de Coverley is dead. He departed this life at his house in the country, after a few weeks' sickness. Sir Andrew Freeport has a letter from one of his correspondents in those parts, that informs him the old man caught a cold at the county sessions, as he was very warmly promoting an address of his own penning, in which he succeeded according to his wishes. But this particular comes from a Whig justice of peace, who was always Sir Roger's enemy and antagonist. I have letters both from the chaplain and Captain Sentry, which mention nothing of it, but are filled with many particulars to the honor of the good old man. I have likewise a letter from the butler, who took so much care of me last summer when I was at the knight's house. As my friend the butler mentions, in the simplicity of his heart, several circumstances the others have passed over in silence, I shall give my reader a copy of his letter, without any alteration or diminution.
"Honoured Sirl.-'Knowing that you was my ‘old Master's good Friend, I could not forbear ‘sending you the melancholy News of his Death, 'which has afflicted the whole Country as well as his ‘poor Servants, who loved him, I may say, better than we did our Lives. I am afraid he caught his ‘Death at the last County Sessions, where he 'would go to see justice done to a poor Widow 'Woman and her Fatherless Children, that had 'been wronged by a neighboring Gentleman; for ‘you know, Sir, my good Master was always the ‘poor Man's Friend. Upon his coming home, the 'first complaint he made was, that he had lost his ‘Roast-Beef Stomach, not being able to touch a 'Sirloin which was served up according to Custom; ‘and you know he used to take great Delight in it. 'From that time forward he grew worse and worse, 'but still kept a good Heart to the last. Indeed, we 'were once in great Hope, of his Recovery, upon ‘a kind Message that was sent him from the Widow 'Lady whom he had made love to the Forty last ‘Years of his Life; but this only proved a Light“ning before Death. He has bequeathed to this 'Lady, as a token of his Love, a great Pearl Neck‘lace, and a couple of Silver bracelets set with Jew‘els which belonged to my good old Lady his Moth‘er. He has bequeathed the fine white Gelding that ‘he used to ride a-hunting upon to his Chaplain, be'cause he thought he would be kind to him; and has 'left you all his Books. He has moreover bequeathed 'to the Chaplain a very pretty Tenement, with good ‘lands about it. It being a very cold day when he ‘made his Will, he left for Mourning, to every Man ‘in the Parish, a great Frize-Coat, and to every 'Woman a black Riding-Hood. It was a moving ‘Sight to see him take leave of his poor servants, 'commending us all for our Fidelity, whilst we were ‘not able to speak a Word for weeping. As we
1. This letter is printed as it was in the original edition of the essays. It illustrates the use of capitals throughout the Spectator.