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Meddler's Mischance.

Meddler's Mischance.

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Proverbs xxvi. 17.


Proverbs xxvi. 17.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Mar 26, 2013
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MEDDLER'S MISCHANCE.BY FRANCIS JACOX Proverbs xxvi. 17.HE that passeth by and meddleth with strife be-longing not to him, is likened in the Book of Proverbs to one that taketh a dog by the ears. Themeddlesome Marplots of daily life, assiduously officiousand blunderingly busy, — the busybodies in other men'smatters, against whom an apostle directs a sharp sen-tence of warning and rebuke, — are disposed of as theydeserve in the moral of one of La Fontaine's Fables :'^ Ainsi certaines gens, faisant les empresses,S'introduisent dans les affaires :lis font partout les ndcessaires,Et, partout importuns, devraient ^tre chassis."But there are well-meaning meddlers, whose meddlinginvolves them in mischance. To interpose between acontentious couple, who by wedlock are one, is notori-ously a hazardous enterprise. Assize cases and policereports are often cited to show what may be expectedby those who interfere between man and wife — namely,the joint hostility of the two. Typical enough is theinstance of the wife who, in terror for her life from herhusband's violence, sent for the police, and they for adoctor, the man being in a state of delirium tremens :the doctor came, and did what he thought necessary ;and when the patient had recovered, his wife joined himin resenting the uncalled-for interposition of strangers,and flatly denying any real cause or pretext for it.Honest Arthur Gorges, that stanch friend of Raleigh's,only found the way of the world an odd one, not anuncommon one, when, seeing Sir Walter and Sir GeorgeT274 MOLIERES WOODCUTTER AND HIS WIFE.Carew ** brawl and scramble like madmen," he played thepart of him who taketh a dog by the ears, for he pur-chased, as he describes it, " such a rap on the knuckles,that I wished both their pates broken, and with muchado they stayed their brawl to see my bloody fingers,"and then set to work to abuse the hapless peacemaker.Not always, not altogether, blessed is the peacemaker, sofar as this world goes, and the way of this world.Sganarelle and Martine in Le M^decin malgri lui^ arethe liveliest exemplars on record, perhaps, of the cha-
racteristic that here claims our notice. The woodcutteris exasperated by the volley of bad names his virago of a wife discharges at him — " trattre ! trompeur 1 liche !coquin Ipendardl gueux ! fripon ! maraud! voleur!^'etc., etc. She will have it, will she, then } he says, ashe lifts the stick to her : " Ah ! vous en voulez done ?[Sganarelle prend un bdtoui et bat sa femme?^' M.Robert hears the cries of the beaten vixen, and hurriesto the rescue. Hold ! hold ! hold I Fie upon it ! Whatis all this ? Cudgel a woman ! Infamous ! He willteach the scoundrel to know better. — But Martine isbeforehand with Sganarelle in resenting the interference.What business is it of M. Robert's ? She chooses to bebeaten. " Je veux quMl me batte, moi ! — De quoi vousmfilez-vous? Est-ce \k votre affaire.? — ^Voyez un peucet impertinent, qui veut emp^cher les maris de battreleurs femmes V M. Robert is full of conciliatory inter- jections of acquiescence, and defers absolutely to thelady's view of the case ; but her wrath waxes hotterand hotter with every concession. Why should hethrust in his nose .? Let him mind his own business.She likes to be beaten. It is not at M. Robert'sexpense : it costs hint nothing : then why should he bepushing himself forward where he's not wanted } He'sa fool, she tells him flat, for meddling in what don'tMAKING A MUDDLE OF MEDDLING. 275concern him one bit ; and with a box on the ear sheenforces her argument, a soufflet that may well staggerthe intruder. M. Robert thereupon begs her husband'spardon with all his heart, and bids him beat, drub,cudgel, thrash, castigate his wife as much as he likes :for the matter of that, M. Robert will help him, if hewishes it. This brings the husband to the fore. No, itis not his wish. He will beat her if he likes, and hewon't beat her if he don't like ; but he won't be dictatedto, or interfered with. She is his, Sganarelle's, wife, notM. Robert's. M. Robert has no voice in the matter atall. Sganarelle don't want his help. And M. Robertis simply an impertinent ass in meddling with otherfolks' private matters; which having said, Sganarellegives the meddler a good beating, and sends him flying,as if for dear life.Agolanti, in the Legend of Florence, gives Rondinellia piece of his mind, in more polished terms, but in avery similar spirit to that of Moli^re's woodcutter andwife-beater :u
I laugh at you.And let me tell you at parting, that the wayTo serve a lady best, and have her faultsLightliest admonished by her lawful helper,Is not to thrust a lawless vanity'Twixt him and his vexed love."Captain Marryat's autobiographic Stapleton recordshis coming to grief for standing up for a beaten wife,who, having made it up with her assailant, joins him inturning on the mediator, whom they jointly bid pack off, and never show his face there again. Cooper'sEsther Bush, in the Prairie^ invites and invokes sympa-thy with her lot as a wife, but as soon as it is expressed,turns on the too ready sympathizer, and resents suchimpertinence in a third party, who thus presumes to set276 MEDDLER'S MISCHANCE.up as a judge, and wrongs a man she won't hear a wordagainst — fluent and affluent and effluent of such wordsas the termagant wife may be herself. When theCountry Fellow in Philaster comes upon the hero in theact of wounding Arethusa in the forest, and with a cryof shame on the " dastard/' is for spoiling his sport,"What ill-bred man art thou, to intrude thyself?" is allthe thanks he gets on the sufferer's part, to say nothingof the keen edge of Philaster's drawn sword. Montes-quieu, in his Persian Letters, expatiates on the love theMuscovite women have to be beaten by their husbands,whose hearts they doubt of having really secured, unlessby palpable proofs on their persons in black and blue.*'Je crois que si quelque voisin venoit au secours, jer^tranglerois," one of them declares. The sensitivenessof the stronger vessel in such cases of a little domesticdifficulty, where however the grey mare is the betterhorse, is exemplified in an epigram of Dean Swift's : —" As Thomas was cudgelled one day by his wife,He took to the street, and fled for his life :Tom's three dearest friends came by in the squabble.And saved him at once from the shrew and the rabble ;Then ventured to give him some sober advice^But Tom is a person of honour so nice,Too wise to take counsel, too proud to take warning.That he sent to all three a challenge next morning.Three duels he fought, thrice ventured his life ;Went home, and was cudgelled again by his wife."The three friends at least ventured each of their threelives too ; and probably went home mindful of the pro-verb that he that passeth by and meddleth with strifebelonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by

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