The Man of Feeling


* * * * “Edwards,” said he, “I have a proper regard for the prosperity of my country: every native of it appropriates to himself some share of the power, or the fame, which, as a nation, it acquires, but I cannot throw off the man so much as to rejoice at our conquests in India. You tell me of immense territories subject to the English: I cannot think of their possessions without being led to inquire by what right they possess them. They came there as traders, bartering the commodities they brought for others which their purchasers could spare; and however great their profits were, they were then equitable. But what title have the subjects of another kingdom to establish an empire in India? to give laws to a country where the inhabitants received them on the terms of friendly commerce? You say they are happier under our regulations than the tyranny of their own petty princes. I must doubt it, from the conduct of those by whom these regulations have been made. They have drained the treasuries of Nabobs, who must fill them by oppressing the industry of their subjects. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider the motive upon which those gentlemen do not deny their going to India. The fame of conquest, barbarous as that motive is, is but a secondary consideration: there are certain stations in wealth to which the warriors of the East aspire. It is there, indeed, where the wishes of their friends assign them eminence, where the question of their country is pointed at their return. When shall I see a commander return from India in the pride of honourable poverty? You describe the victories they have gained; they are sullied by the cause in which they fought: you enumerate the spoils of those victories; they are covered with the blood of the vanquished.

“Could you tell me of some conqueror giving peace and happiness to the conquered? did he accept the gifts of their princes to use them for the comfort of those whose fathers, sons, or husbands, fell in battle? did he use his power to gain security and freedom to the regions of oppression and slavery? did he endear the British name by examples of generosity, which the most barbarous or most depraved are rarely able to resist? did he return with the consciousness of duty discharged to his country, and humanity to his fellow-creatures? did he return with no lace on his coat, no slaves in his retinue, no chariot at his door, and no burgundy at his table? - these were laurels which princes might envy - which an honest man would not condemn!”

“Your maxims, Mr. Harley, are certainly right,” said Edwards. “I am not capable of arguing with you; but I imagine there are great temptations in a great degree of riches, which it is no easy matter to resist: those a poor man like me cannot describe, because he never knew them; and perhaps I have reason to bless God that I never did; for then, it is likely, I should have withstood them no better than my neighbours. For you know, sir, that it is not the fashion now, as it was in former times, that I have read of in books, when your great generals died so poor, that they did not leave wherewithal to buy them a coffin; and people thought the better of their memories for it: if they did so now-a-days, I question if any body, except yourself, and some few like you, would thank them.”

“I am sorry,” replied Harley, “that there is so much truth in what you say; but however the general current of opinion may point, the feelings are not yet lost that applaud benevolence, and censure inhumanity. Let us endeavour to strengthen them in ourselves; and we, who live sequestered from the noise of the multitude, have better opportunities of listening undisturbed to their voice.”

They now approached the little dwelling of Edwards. A maid-servant, whom he had hired to assist him in the care of his grandchildren met them a little way from the house: “There is a young lady within with the children,” said she. Edwards expressed his surprise at the visit: it was however not the less true; and we mean to account for it.

This young lady then was no other than Miss Walton. She had heard the old man’s history from Harley, as we have already related it. Curiosity, or some other motive, made her desirous to see his grandchildren; this she had an opportunity of gratifying soon, the children, in some of their walks, having strolled as far as her father’s avenue. She put several questions to both; she was delighted with the simplicity of their answers, and promised, that if they continued to be good children, and do as their grandfather bid them, she would soon see them again, and bring some present or other for their reward. This promise she had performed now: she came attended only by her maid, and brought with her a complete suit of green for the boy, and a chintz gown, a cap, and a suit of ribbons, for his sister. She had time enough, with her maid’s assistance, to equip them in their new habiliments before Harley and Edwards returned. The boy heard his grandfather’s voice, and, with that silent joy which his present finery inspired, ran to the door to meet him: putting one hand in his, with the other pointed to his sister, “See,” said he, “what Miss Walton has brought us!” - Edwards gazed on them. Harley fixed his eyes on Miss Walton; her’s were turned to the ground; - in Edwards’s was a beamy moisture. - He folded his hands together - “I cannot speak, young lady,” said he, “to thank you.” Neither could Harley. There were a thousand sentiments; but they gushed so impetuously on his heart, that he could not utter a syllable. * * * *