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BEING THE SECOND PART OF THE
ESTER WILMOT was born in the parish of Wes ton, of parents who maintained themselves by their labour; they were both of them ungodly, it is no wonder therefore they were unhappy. They lived badly together, and how could they do otherwise? for their tempers were very different, and they had no religion to smooth down this difference, or to teach them that they ought to bear with each others faults. Rebecca Wilmot was a proof that people may have some right qualities, and yet be but bad characters, and utterly destitute of religion. She was clean, notable, and industrious. Now I know some folks fancy that the poor who have these qualities need have no other, but this is a sad mistake, as I am sure every page in the Bible would shew; See the preceding volume.
and it is a pity people do not consult it oftener. They direct their plowing and sowing by the information of the Almanack, why will they not consult the Bible for the direction of their hearts and lives? Rebecca was of a violent, ungovernable temper; and that very neatness which is in itself so pleasing, in her became a sin, for her affection to her husband and children was quite lost in an overanxious desire to have her house reckoned the nicest in the parish. Rebecca was also a proof that a poor woman may be as vain as a rich one, for it was not so much the comfort of, neatness, as the praise of neatness, which she coveted.
A spot on her hearth, or a bit of rust on a brass candlestick, would throw her into a violent passion. Now it is very right to keep the hearth clean and the candlestick bright, but it is very wrong so to set one's affections on a hearth, or a candlestick, as to make one's self unhappy if any trifling accident happens to them; and if Rebecca had been as careful to keep her heart without spot, or her life without blemish, as she was to keep her fire-irons free from either, she would have been held up in this history, not as a warning, but a pattern, and in that case her nicety would have come in for a part of the praise, It was no fault in Rebecca, but a merit, that her oak table was so bright you could almost see to put your cap on in it; but it was no merit but a fault, that when John, her husband, laid down his cup of beer upon it so as to leave a mark, she would fly out into so terrible a passion that all the children were forced to run to corners; now poor John having no corner to run to, ran to the ale-house, till that which was at first a refuge too soon became a pleasure.
Rebecca never wished her children to learn to read, because she said it would only serve to make them lazy, and she herself had done very well with
out it. She would keep poor Hester from church to stone the space under the chairs in fine patterns and flowers. I don't pretend to say there was any harm in this little decoration, it looks pretty enough, and it is better to let the children do that than do nothing. But still these are not things to set one's heart upon; and besides Rebecca only did it as a trap for praise; fo: she was sulky and disappointed if any ladies happened to call in and did not seem delighted with the flowers which she used to draw with a burnt stick on the white wash of the chimney corners. Besides, all this finery was often done on a Sunday, and there is a great deal of harm in doing right things at a wrong time, or in wasting much time on things which are of no real use, or in doing any thing at all out of vanity. Now I beg that no lazy slattern of a wife will go and take any comfort in her dirt from what is here said against Rebecca's nicety; for I believe, that for one who makes her husband unhappy through neatness, twenty do so by dirt and laziness. All excesses are wrong, but the excess of a good quality is not so common as the excess of a bad one; and not being so obvious, perhaps, for that very reason requires more animadversion.
John Wilmot was not an ill-natured man, but he had no fixed principle. Instead of setting himself to cure his wife's faults by mild reproof and a good example, he was driven by them into still greater faults himself. It is a common case with people who have no religion when any cross accident befals them, instead of trying to make the best of a bad matter, instead of considering their trouble as a trial sent from God to purify them, or instead of considering the faults of others as a punishment for their own sins, instead of this I say, what do they do but either sink down at once into despair, or else run for comfort into evil courses. Drinking is the
common remedy for sorrow, if that can be called a remedy, the end of which is to destroy soul and body. John now began to spend all his leisure hours at the Bell. He used to be fond of his children; but when he could not come home in quiet and play with the little ones, while his wife dressed him a bit of hot supper, he grew in time not to come home at all, He who has once taken to drink can seldom be said to be guilty of one sin only; John's heart became hardened. His affection for his family was lost in self-indulgence. Patience and submission, on the part of his wife, might have won much upon a man of John's temper, but instead of trying to reclaim him, his wife seemed rather to delight in putting him as much in the wrong as she could, that she might be justified in her constant abuse of him. I doubt whether she would have been as much pleased with his reformation as she was with always talking of his faults, though I know it was the opinion of the neighbours, that if she had taken as much pains to reform her husband by reforming her own temper, as she did to abuse him and expose him, her endeavours might have been blessed with success. Good christians, who are trying to subdue their own faults, can hardly believe that the ungodly have a sort of savage satisfaction in trying, by indulgence of their own evil tempers, to lessen the happiness of those with whom they have to do. Need we look any farther for a proof of our own corrupt nature, when we see mankind delight in sins which have neither the temptation of profit or the allurement of pleasure, such as plaguing, vexing, or abusing each other.
Hester was the eldest of their five children; she was a sharp sensible girl, but at fourteen years old she could not tell a letter, nor had she ever been taught to bow her knee to Him who made her; for
John's, or rather Rebecca's house, had seldom the name of God pronounced in it, except to be blasphemed.
It was just about this time, if I mistake not, that Mrs. Jones set up her Sunday School, of which Mrs. Betty Crew was appointed mistress, as was related in the last volume. Mrs. Jones finding that none of the Wilmots were sent to school, took a walk to Rebecca's house, and civilly told her she called to let her know that a school was opened, to which she desired her to send her children on the Sunday following, especially her eldest daughter Hester." Well," said Rebecca," and what will
you give her if I do?"-" Give her!" replied Mrs. Jones," that is rather a rude question, and asked in a rude manner: however, as a soft answer turneth away wrath, I assure you that I will give her the best learning; I will teach her to
fear God and keep his commandments."—" İ "would rather you would teach her to fear me, "and to keep my house clean," said this wicked woman. "She shan't come, however, unless you
will pay her for it."-" Pay her for it!" said the lady," will it not be reward enough that she will
be taught to read the word of God without any expence to you? For though many gifts both of "books and clothing will be given the children, 66 yet you are not to consider these gifts so much in "the light of payment as an expression of good"will in your benefactors." "I say," interrupted Rebecca, "that Hester shan't go to school. Re"ligion is of no use that I know of but to make peo"ple hate their own flesh and blood; and I see no "good in learning but to make folks proud, and "lazy, and dirty. I cannot tell a letter myself, and though I say it, that should not say it, there is not a notabler woman in the parish.'