Mr. Midshipman Easy

Chapter One

Which the reader will find very easy to read.

Frederick Marryat

MR. NICODEMUS EASY was a gentleman who lived down in Hampshire; he was a married man, and in very easy circumstances. Most couples find it very easy to have a family, but not always quite so easy to maintain them. Mr. Easy was not at all uneasy on the latter score, as he had no children; but he was anxious to have them, as most people covet what they cannot obtain. After ten years, Mr. Easy gave it up as a bad job. Philosophy is said to console a man under disappointment, although Shakespeare asserts that it is no remedy for toothache; so Mr. Easy turned philosopher, the very best profession a man can take up, when he is fit for nothing else; he must be a very incapable person indeed who cannot talk nonsense. For some time, Mr. Easy could not decide upon what description his nonsense should consist of; at last he fixed upon the rights of man, equality, and all that; how every person was born to inherit his share of the earth, a right at present only admitted to a certain length that is about six feet, for we all inherit our graves, and are allowed to take possession without dispute. But no one would listen to Mr. Easy’s philosophy. The women would not acknowledge the rights of men, whom they declared always to be in the wrong; and, as the gentlemen who visited Mr. Easy were all men of property, they could not perceive the advantages of sharing with those who had none. However, they allowed him to discuss the question, while they discussed his port wine. The wine was good, if the arguments were not, and we must take things as we find them in this world.

While Mr. Easy talked philosophy, Mrs. Easy played patience, and they were a happy couple, riding side by side on their hobbies, and never interfering with each other. Mr. Easy knew his wife could not understand him, and therefore did not expect her to listen very attentively; and Mrs. Easy did not care how much her husband talked, provided she was not put out in her game. Mutual forbearance will always ensure domestic felicity.

There was another cause for their agreeing so well. Upon any disputed question Mr. Easy invariably gave it up to Mrs. Easy, telling her that she should have her own way—and this pleased his wife; but, as Mr. Easy always took care, when it came to the point, to have his way, he was pleased as well. It is true that Mrs. Easy had long found out that she did not have her own way long; but she was of an easy disposition, and as, in nine cases out of ten, it was of very little consequence how things were done, she was quite satisfied with his submission during the heat of the argument. Mr. Easy had admitted that she was right, and if like all men he would do wrong, why what could a poor woman do? With a lady of such a quiet disposition, it is easy to imagine that the domestic felicity of Mr. Easy was not easily disturbed. But, as people have observed before, there is a mutability in human affairs. It was at the finale of the eleventh year of their marriage that Mrs. Easy at first complained that she could not enjoy her breakfast. Mrs. Easy had her own suspicions, everybody else considered it past doubt, all except Mr. Easy; he little “thought, good easy man, that his greatness was ripening;” he had decided that to have an heir was no easy task, and it never came into his calculations that there could be a change in his wife’s figure. You might have added to it, subtracted from it, divided it, or multiplied it, but as it was a zero, the result would be always the same. Mrs. Easy also was not quite sure—she believed it might be the case, there was no saying; it might be a mistake, like that of Mrs. Trunnion’s in the novel, and, therefore, she said nothing to her husband about the matter. At last Mr. Easy opened his eyes, and when, upon interrogating his wife, he found out the astounding truth, he opened his eyes still wider, and then he snapped his fingers, and danced, like a bear upon hot plates, with delight, thereby proving that different causes may produce similar effects in two instances at one and the same time. The bear dances from pain, Mr. Easy from pleasure; and again, when we are indifferent, or do not care for anything, we snap our fingers at it, and when we are overjoyed and obtain what we most care for, we also snap our fingers. Two months after Mr. Easy snapped his fingers, Mrs. Easy felt no inclination to snap hers, either from indifference or pleasure. The fact was, that Mrs. Easy’s time was come, to undergo what Shakespeare pronounces “the pleasing punishment that women bear;” but Mrs. Easy, like the rest of her sex, declared, “that all men were liars,” and most particularly poets.

But while Mrs. Easy was suffering, Mr. Easy was in ecstasies. He laughed at pain, as all philosophers do when it is suffered by other people, and not by themselves.

In due course of time, Mrs. Easy presented her husband with a fine boy, whom we present to the public as our hero.

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