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THE THIRTEENTH VOLUME.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
I was travelling a few weeks since in the inside of the mailcoach, where I had for my companions three gentlemen; the two who sat opposite to me being still in the prime of life, and the third an elderly person of a highly respectable appearance, and an expression of countenance which I thought particularly pleasing.
It was not for me, being a female, though not young, to begin the conversation with these strangers, neither did the old gentleman seem much disposed to talk; nevertheless there was no dearth of discourse, for our two opposite neighbours were, it seems, of the number of those who are for setting all the world to rights, for reforming parliaments, changing laws, subverting all establishments, and in short, for setting the whole earth on fire, in order to produce salamanders and phenixes from the flames and ashes. And our speculators seemed to be quite elated by the impertinences which they uttered, not considering that those systems of reform which, in theory, appear without fault, may, in experience, be found to work directly in opposition to the end desired, as every statesman and wise politician would have it in his power to prove from the result of his experience; for these crude reformers, as I have often remarked, these favourers of general emancipation from old authorities, almost universally leave the depravity of human nature out of their calculations. As if, in computing the progress of a vessel through any given space of ocean, the calculator should forget to take account of opposing tides and baffling winds, and suppose that deceitful element, the sea, to be always as serene and calm as a bay to the leeward of one of the Fortunate Islands.
The old gentleman on my right had listened to this conversation for some time with his mouth pursed up, as if resolved not to speak. And I was thinking what might be passing in his mind, when suddenly he began to hem and cough, and then shifting himself a little in his seat, and begging my pardon if he incommoded me, he uttered various incoherent monosyllables, much to the following effect. "Well-good-so-ay—true, but” -and then was silent again.
These monosyllables, however, served to silence our opposite companions, and to draw me out; for I said, "Sir, you were about to speak, will you favour us with your opinions on the subjects which these gentlemen have had under discussion."
"I should have given my opinion, good madam, much more promptly forty years since," he replied; "but when a man has reached his grand climacteric, he is somewhat slower in deciding on questions of the nature of those now in agitation, than we find young people to be."
"Your opinions, then, probably, do not coincide with ours, sir," remarked one of the younger gentlemen.
"I was much of your way of thinking at one time," replied the elder. "In short, I thought that the whole state of society was deranged, and that I wanted only sufficient influence in the world to set all things to rights; but although I had been accounted one of the best arithmeticians in my class at school, I always omitted, in my calculations, when weighing my arguments, to make my allowances for tare and tret-or any other species of drawback."
To do our opposite neighbours justice, they seemed very willing to hear the experience of the old gentleman; and being more decidedly encouraged by me, he was at length drawn on to the relation of the following narrative, which I shall hope to commit to writing in his own words :
"It is of little consequence," said the old gentleman, "what my name may be, or that of my place of abode. Call me, if you please, John Gwynne, and my residence Plus Caervon; and having so done, you will no doubt expect to find that I am a Welshman, and somehow connected with Prince Llewellyn of unfortunate memory; but you are not to know the exact place of my abode. Suffice it to say, that at the age of twenty-one