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he, "I know you are a wary man, and do not care to talk of public matters."
The knight then asked me if I had seen Prince Eugenio, and made me promise to get him a stand in some convenient place where he might have a full sight of that extraordinary man, whose presence does so much honor to the British nation. He dwelt very long on the praises of this great general, and I found that since I was with him in the country, he had drawn many observations together out of his reading in Baker's Chronicle, and other authors, who always lie in his hall-window, which very much redound to the honor of this prince.
Having passed away the greatest part of the morning in hearing the knight's reflections, which were partly private and partly political, he asked me if I would smoke a pipe with him over a dish of coffee at Squires'. As I love the old man, I take a delight in complying with everything that is agreeable to him, and accordingly waited on him to the coffeehouse, where his venerable figure drew upon us the eyes of the whole room. He had no sooner seated himself at the upper end of the high table, but he called for a clean pipe, a paper of tobacco, a dish of coffee, a wax candle, and the "Supplement," with such an air of cheerfulness and good-humor, that all the boys in the coffee-room, who seemed to take pleasure in serving him, were at once employed on his several errands, insomuch that nobody else could come at a dish of tea till the knight had got all his conveniences about him.
* A periodical paper.
SIR ROGER AT A PLAY WITH THE
Respicere exemplar vitæ morumque jubebe
Doctum imitatorem, et veras hinc ducere voces.
Keep Nature's great original in view,
My friend Sir Roger de Coverley, when we last met together at the club, told me that he had a great mind to see the new tragedy * with me, assuring me at the same time that he had not been at a play these twenty years. "The last I saw," said Sir Roger, "was The Committee, which I should not have gone to neither, had not I been told beforehand that it was a good Church-of-England comedy." He then proceeded to inquire of me who this distressed mother was; and upon hearing that she was Hector's widow, he told me that her husband was a brave man, and that when he was a schoolboy he had read his life at the end of the dictionary. My friend asked me, in the next place, if there would not be some danger in coming home late, in case the Mohocks should be abroad. "I assure you," says he, "I thought I had fallen into their hands last night; for I observed two or three lusty black men that followed me half-way up Fleet Street, and mended their
*The Distressed Mother.
pace behind me, in proportion as I put on to get away from them. You must know," continued the knight, with a smile, "I fancied they had a mind to hunt me; for I remember an honest gentleman in my neighborhood, who was served such a trick in King Charles the Second's time, for which reason he has not ventured himself in town ever since. I might have shown them very good sport, had this been their design; for, as I am an old fox-hunter, I should have turned and dodged, and have played them a thousand tricks they had never seen in their lives before." Sir Roger added, that "if these gentlemen had any such intention, they did not succeed very well in it; for I threw them out," says he, "at the end of Norfolk Street, where I doubled the corner, and got shelter in my lodgings before they could imagine what was become of me. However," says the knight, "if Captain Sentry will make one of us to-morrow night, and if you will both of you call upon me about four o'clock, that we may be at the house before it is full, I will have my own coach in readiness to attend you, for John tells me he has got the forewheels mended."
The captain, who did not fail to meet me there at the appointed hour, bade Sir Roger fear nothing, for that he had put on the same sword which he made use of at the battle of Steenkirk.* Sir Roger's ser
* In 1692. Gentlemen wore about this time a kind of neckcloth called a Steenkirk, probably from its being taken notice of first at this battle. In like manner, and for a similar reason, a wig was called a Ramillies, being introduced, or having become fashionable, about the time of that battle, in 1706.
vants, and among the rest my old friend the butler, had, I found, provided themselves with good oaken planks, to attend their master upon this occasion. When we had placed him in his coach, with myself at his left hand, the captain before him, and his butler at the head of his footmen in the rear, we convoyed him in safety to the play-house, where, after having marched up the entry in good order, the captain and I went in with him, and seated him betwixt us in the pit. As soon as the house was full and the candles lighted, my old friend stood up, and looked about him with that pleasure which a mind seasoned with humanity naturally feels in itself, at the sight of a multitude of people who seem pleased with one another, and partake of the same common entertainment. I could not but fancy to myself, as the old man stood up in the middle of the pit, that he made a very proper centre to a tragic audience. Upon the entering of Pyrrhus, the knight told me that he did not believe the king of France himself had a better strut. I was indeed very attentive to my old friend's remarks, because I looked upon them as a piece of natural criticism, and was well pleased to hear him, at the conclusion of almost every scene, telling me, that he could not imagine how the play would end. One while he appeared much concerned for Andromache: and a little while after as much for Hermione; and was extremely puzzled to think what would become of Pyrrhus.
When Sir Roger saw Andromache's obstinate refusal to her lover's importunities, he whispered me
in the ear, that he was sure she would never have him; to which he added, with a more than ordinary vehemence, "You can't imagine, sir, what it is to have to do with a widow." Upon Pyrrhus threatening afterwards to leave her, the knight shook his head and muttered to himself, " Ay, do if you can." This part dwelt so much upon my friend's imagination, that at the close of the third act, as I was thinking of something else, he whispered me in my ear, "These widows, sir, are the most perverse creatures in the world. But pray," says he, "you that are a critic, is this play according to your dramatic rules, as you call them? Should your people in tragedy always talk to be understood? Why, there is not a single sentence in this play that I do not know the meaning of."
The fourth act very luckily began before I had time to give the old gentleman ån answer. "Well," says the knight, sitting down with great satisfaction, "I suppose we are now to see Hector's ghost." He then renewed his attention, and, from time to time, fell a-praising the widow. He made, indeed, a little mistake as to one of her pages, whom, at his first entering, he took for Astyanax; but he quickly set himself right in that particular, though, at the same time, he owned he should have been very glad to have seen the little boy, who, says he, must needs be a very fine child by the account that is given of him. Upon Hermione's going off with a menace to Pyrrhus, the audience gave a loud clap, to which Sir Roger added, "On my word, a notable young baggage !"