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a web of many textures

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Page 299


Is this rheumatic twinge, so industrious at my kneepan,
kinking nerve and mind with its intensified, irradiating
misery, a devil to torment me before my time?
The milk of human kindness, that erewhile has found an
abiding place in me, has become dried up by the fever
of insidious disease, or soured like dairy-milk by summer
thunder. And there is that precious fallacy of
Shakespeare's staring me in the face, about the uses of
adversity being sweet. I can fancy that this may be
the case in many instances, but never in the adversity
that comes in the form of rheumatic racks and thumb-screws.
The current of my nature is all turned back
from its usual course. Do I love my neighbor? No.
Do I love society? No. Do I wish to make people
happy? No. I would have a cloud as black and opaque
as my hat envelop everything at this present moment,
with no hope of brightness to-morrow. Who said, Patience?
It 's hackneyed, and infernally unkind, let me
tell you, to sit there with your wholesome limbs encased
in boots, and tell me to be patient. How everything is
discolored by the gangrene of one's feelings! The sun
is darkened by the shawl of my own unhappy spirit
pinned up against the windows of day; and then sweeps
by a long train of funereal fancies — the forms of rheumatic
martyrs pass before me, and of ancestors who
have died of the rheumatism, till I shriek for respite.
O, for the spirit of the past, I cry, that could, by laying
on of hands, impart healthiness, sparing to the sufferer
the added afflictions of bolus and embrocation! O,
sweet Hygeia, on one knee I am able to invoke thy
aid! Tell me not, O man of strange fancies, that my
distemper partakes of Parnassian qualities; for I can


Page 300
now reveal my genius in limpéd feet. I 'd brain thee,
did I deem thou didst meditate a joke at such a
time. A man not very long since published a book to
prove that everything is right in the providence of
God, and not a wrong or an evil can be left out of our
lives without impairing their perfectness. Then may
there not be a use in it, after all? and, if it be necessary
that I endure a few paroxysms of pain for the sake
of a great principle, and be a martyr, — though, indeed,
ne martyr, a paradox that I leave the learned to construe,
— should I not be running counter to Providence
in condemning and deprecating it? I 'll think of it
in meditative calmness and red flannel. May not the
rheumatism be sent to teach us how to rightly prize the
home qualities of woman, whose assiduous kindness
never wearies with doing for us, — who bears with the
petulance of our peevish nature, and smooths our pillow
with a tenderness that commends even distemper
as a blessing; and, as she bends over us, with consolation
in her eyes and liniment in her hands, we hail her
as our good angel, and learn to say, with tolerable
grace, “sweet are the uses of adversity,” — alluding,
of course, to the rheumatism.