By Oliver Goldsmith

© St. John, N.B.: John McMillan, 1834



COME, Muse, and sing how doctors spread their fame,
And well bred ladies gain a deathless name.
From small mistakes what direful troubles flow,
How trifling errors prove the source of woe;
In life’s gay scenes what trivial things impart


A moment’s joy or anguish to the heart.
    Near Sackville’s stream that winding through the plain,
Pours its dark waters to the distant main,
There by a gentle slope a mansion stands,
By woods encompassed, rocks and sterile lands. [Page 73]


By nature barren, though the owner’s toil
With time and culture had improved the soil.
This spacious house contained a lovely pair,
He kind and tender, she divinely fair;
Whose lives in one contented course were passed,


And every hour seemed happier than the last.
Their beauteous children too by numbers proved,
How great the bliss of those who long had loved.
    It chanced the maid fell ill, I can’t say why,
Maidens are mortal, and must therefore die.


But so it was, death stared her in the face,
And Betty fancied hers a dangerous case.
Straight to her mistress, then, in fright she flew,
“Dear ma’am, oh ma’am! what, madam, shall I do?
I’m sick, I’m ill indeed, and full of pain,


It comes and goes, oh, there it comes again;
Oh, send to town, dear mistress, if you please,
I’m sure some physic now would give me ease.”
“Good Betty, do not thus alarm your mind,”
Replied her gentle mistress, “be resigned; [Page 74]


It’s some slight cold you’ve caught and nothing more,
A few hours rest will soon your health restore,
Go, get a nice warm drink, and go to sleep,
First bathe your feet, and don’t forget to keep
Yourself well wrapped and covered up with clothes,


You’ll find your head much better for repose.”
The morning came, but still poor Betty grieved,
The night had not her sad complaints relieved.
Again she sought her mistress, and applied
For what the night before had been denied.


“Dear ma’am, the drink in vain has given me rest,
My head is still with dreadful pain oppressed,
Do let our Thomas now to town repair,
He’ll not be long, I’m sure, in going there.”
“No, Betty, no,” the tender fair replied,


“It’s much too early yet you know, beside,
John will be busy, Thomas can’t attend,
I promised that I would the chariot lend. [Page 75]
But Mr. Page repairs to town to-day,
And to the doctor shall your fears convey.”


    At nine o’clock the breakfast cloth was laid,
With coffee, tea, and toast thereon displayed;
And, tete-a-tete, the wife and husband sat,
Talking of balls, and plays, and such chit-chat­.
“My love,” the lady cried, “I’m grieved to say,


Betty, our maid’s, extremely ill to-day.
Last evening, just before we went to bed,
A darting pain attacked her in the head,
I thought ’twas merely cold, but there appear
Some dangerous symptoms which excite my fear.”


“Dear me” rejoined the spouse, “I’m sorry too,
Betty’s a creature faithful, good and true;
Soon as my breakfast’s o’er I’ll go to town,
And there consult the skilful Doctor Brown,
He, I am sure, will soon afford relief,


And far remove the source of Betty’s grief.”
    To town went Page, and with a serious face,
Related to his friend poor Betty’s case: [Page 76]
    “Dear Brown, our maid is very ill indeed,
Pray let some person to our house proceed,


Pray let some person to our house proceed,
This morning in a dangerous state she lies,
And frightens all the children with her cries,
Complains of aches about her back and head,
And fears she’ll soon be numbered with the dead.”


    “Bless me,” replied the doctor, “this is bad!
Relief immediate must of course be had:
I’ll send some one, will Bland or Larkin do?
Either, this instant, shall repair with you;
In this, as every other case confessed,


Larkin, I think, will answer much the best
Where women’s feelings nicely are observed.
A married man should ever be preferred.”
    While thus the honest spouse his time employed,
Far other cares his tender wife annoyed,


Those cares that give good wives sincere delight,
As overlooking, putting things to right,
Training the servants, sending boys to school,
And making pies by Mistress Glass’s rule. [Page 77]
These duties ended, every labour o’er,


John was directed, till the hour of four,
His fair and beauteous mistress to deny,
To all who might in morning calls apply.
    And now, obedient to his master’s will,
Larkin directs his course o’er bridge and hill;


And mounted on his noble dark bay mare,
With eager haste drives through the frigid air
Before the door arrived his knock proclaims
To all who hear some one admission claims.
The door unlocked, the gallant doctor cries,


“Pray is your master in?” “no,” John replies;
“My master went to town two hours ago;”
“Your mistress then’s at home?” “oh, no sir, no!
She’s gone out too, and won’t be home before
The afternoon, at three o’clock or four.”


“If that’s the case, I’ll see the servant maid,
And please to say, if not by weakness staid,
That Doctor Larkin is at present here,
And would be glad if she’d at once appear.” [Page 78]
    As John was gone to summon down the maid,


In morning dress and dishabille arrayed,
While her loose zone abundant proof affords,
How ladies wish to be who love their lords,
The mistress entered! think with what surprise
All ye who such a sight can realize:


“Oh, oh! you little rogue, my pretty heart,
Your case is clear I see, come, now impart
Your story, I’ll be secret, when and where,
What luckless hour deceived a girl so fair.”
“Sir,” cried the lady, while her blushing face ­


Convinced the Doctor of her sad disgrace;
“If here you come disposed to give offence,
Some other subject might afford pretence.”
“Come, come, sit down, and tell me all your grief,”
Replied the Doctor, “I can grant relief:


Come, tell me all about it, tell me who
Has thus been faithless, cruel, and untrue?”
“Sir,” cried the lady in a monstrous rage,
“I, Sir, I, I am Mistress, Mistress Page!” [Page79]
Good heavens, how the astonished Doctor stared


For every thing but this he was prepared;
“Madam, I beg—I hope, that is, I mean—
I understood to-day you’d not be seen,
The servant told me at the outer door,
You’d not be home until the hour of four;


Upon my word I took you for the maid,
And thus my want of knowledge have betrayed;
But pray forgive me, madam, if I say
You’ve caused yourself this sad mistake to-day.”
    The Doctor saw the maid, and soon relieved


The pains and aches that Betty sadly grieved;
Refreshed with cake and wine he then withdrew
Returned to town, and tells the tale to you. [Page 80]