Tale XVIII

THE WAGER.

Counter and Clubb were men in trade, whose pains,
Credit, and prudence, brought them constant gains;
Partners and punctual, every friend agreed
Counter and Clubb were men who must succeed.
When they had fix'd some little time in life,
Each thought of taking to himself a wife:
As men in trade alike, as men in love,
They seem'd with no according views to move;
As certain ores in outward view the same,
They show'd their difference when the magnet came.
Counter was vain: with spirit strong and high,
'Twas not in him like suppliant swain to sigh:
'His wife might o'er his men and maids preside,
And in her province be a judge and guide;
But what he thought, or did, or wish'd to do,
She must not know, or censure if she knew;
At home, abroad, by day, by night, if he
On aught determined, so it was to be:
How is a man,' he ask'd, 'for business fit,
Who to a female can his will submit?
Absent a while, let no inquiring eye
Or plainer speech presume to question why:
But all be silent; and, when seen again,
Let all be cheerful--shall a wife complain?
Friends I invite, and who shall dare t'object,
Or look on them with coolness or neglect?
No! I must ever of my house be head,
And, thus obey'd, I condescend to wed.'
Clubb heard the speech--'My friend is nice, said

he;
A wife with less respect will do for me:
How is he certain such a prize to gain?
What he approves, a lass may learn to feign,
And so affect t'obey till she begins to reign;
A while complying, she may vary then,
And be as wives of more unwary men;
Beside, to him who plays such lordly part,
How shall a tender creature yield her heart;
Should he the promised confidence refuse,
She may another more confiding choose;
May show her anger, yet her purpose hide,
And wake his jealousy, and wound his pride.
In one so humbled, who can trace the friend?
I on an equal, not a slave, depend;
If true, my confidence is wisely placed,
And being false, she only is disgraced.'
Clubb, with these notions, cast his eye around;
And one so easy soon a partner found.
The lady chosen was of good repute;
Meekness she had not, and was seldom mute;
Though quick to anger, still she loved to smile,
And would be calm if men would wait a while:
She knew her duty, and she loved her way,
More pleased in truth to govern than obey;
She heard her priest with reverence, and her spouse
As one who felt the pressure of her vows;
Useful and civil, all her friends confess'd -
Give her her way, and she would choose the best;
Though some indeed a sly remark would make -
Give it her not, and she would choose to take.
All this, when Clubb some cheerful months had

spent,
He saw, confess'd, and said he was content.
Counter meantime selected, doubted, weigh'd,
And then brought home a young complying maid;
A tender creature, full of fears as charms,
A beauteous nursling from its mother's arms;
A soft, sweet blossom, such as men must love,
But to preserve must keep it in the stove:
She had a mild, subdued, expiring look -
Raise but the voice, and this fair creature shook;
Leave her alone, she felt a thousand fears -
Chide, and she melted into floods of tears;
Fondly she pleaded, and would gently sigh,
For very pity, or she knew not why;
One whom to govern none could be afraid -
Hold up the finger, this meek thing obey'd;
Her happy husband had the easiest task -
Say but his will, no question would she ask;
She sought no reasons, no affairs she knew,
Of business spoke not, and had nought to do.
Oft he exclaim'd, 'How meek! how mild! how kind!
With her 'twere cruel but to seem unkind;
Though ever silent when I take my leave,
It pains my heart to think how hers will grieve;
'Tis heaven on earth with such a wife to dwell,
I am in raptures to have sped so well;
But let me not, my friend, your envy raise,
No! on my life, your patience has my praise.'
His Friend, though silent, felt the scorn

implied -
'What need of patience?' to himself he cried:
'Better a woman o'er her house to rule,
Than a poor child just hurried from her school;
Who has no care, yet never lives at ease;
Unfit to rule, and indisposed to please.
What if he govern, there his boast should end;
No husband's power can make a slave his friend.'
It was the custom of these Friends to meet
With a few neighbours in a neighbouring street;
Where Counter ofttimes would occasion seize
To move his silent Friend by words like these:
'A man,' said he, 'if govern'd by his wife,
Gives up his rank and dignity in life;
N
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George Crabbe

George Crabbe was an English poet, surgeon, and clergyman. more…

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