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a tavern, where we were sure of good cheer, and have a band of music for a water-excursion by moonlight, in the evening; and it was stipulated to be at home for morning prayers. Every thing conspired against me. My near release made me already feel the gush of liberty. The kindness of my father, the anticipations of meeting my brothers and sisters, once more round the paternal board, made me alınost crazy with excitement. I was in no situation to act thoughtfully. I joined the party in their ride, and we did go out of town.
I drove a fleet horse that day; and I well remember the sensation of liberty — the rëaction of a long, tedious, studious retirement from any thing like pleasure — that thrilled through me, as we wheeled along the smooth road. We seemed on wings.
During the ride, some accident happened to one of the horses. He got frightened and ran away, and ran over a child. It was well known that we were L - students. An investigation took place ; we were reported to the government. My absence from recitation was suspicious. The whole matter was brought to light; and instead of going home, to gladden my family, I carried home a bill of expulsion.
My misfortune — ny agony — made me calm. I walked into the house with a ghastly face and the cold shiver of despair. No one rose to meet me, for my appearance told that I was the bearer of disgrace. I handed the letter of the president to my father, and sinking into a chair, covered my face with my hands.
What words can describe the agony of a father's heart, when, after forgiving, alluring, encouraging, and bribing — after all human means have been tried for an imprudent son — I cannot call myself by a worse name and just as he thinks he sees the object of his wishes accomplished, suddenly finds the very anchor of his hopes torn away, and sees, in all its nakedness, the utter worthlessness of his favorite child ?
He knew not the aggravating circumstances. He did not think of them. He only saw the result. That was enough for him. He knew nothing of my disposition. He saw me affectionate, and kind, and respectful one day, and the next subjected to the severest censures, which proved me base, and unworthy of his confidence. He was staggered, lost, bewildered. He said not a word to me for a week — took no more notice of me than if I had been a block. I was suffered to remain under the paternal roof, and this was all that convinced me that I had not lost, irremediably, the affection of my father.
CHAPTER XI. I was now perfectly regular in my hours, and as studious in my habits as any one could wish. Very soon, my father began to speak to me - to be cheerful in my presence. Then he spoke to me of my intentions. I wished to study law, and my name was entered in the best office in the city.
The hopes of a father never weary, as long as youth remains. I was réinstated in his good opinion ; indulgences flowed in upon me; and I forgot that I had ever done wrong, and began to look upon myself as quite a good young man. My relations and friends all seemed agreed to forget this disgrace, and I found myself moving about in society quite a tolerated personage.
My father was rich. I was to be a lawyer. What mother wanted more? •He must be invited,' said Mrs. C. I was invited — flirted with the young ladies — mounted whiskers — kept a horse and gig — played billiards — had a season, ticket at the theatre — went to all public dinners, and spent the morning in walking the streets, to look for my female acquaintance, and to show my grace at a bow.
This was delightful. My conscience was at rest. I had been at college, and got out. Nobody inquired how. I was well received in good society. I had thrown off the boy, and his nice delicacy of feeling. It was unfashionable to have fine feelings. I tried to be a • man about town,' with some success. I became philosophic — read Rousseau and Hume - all the new novels and many old ones; was a member of a literary club, and took the reviews, and skimmed the magazines; spoke of painting, and went to the picture gallery.
But why should I relate all the vapid employments of a young uneducated man to kill time ; who, with more reputation than he could carry out, was obliged to resort to all kinds of subterfuges ? I was now nineteen years of age.
I carried on this life for a year or more. I was too well satisfied with myself, to think much what my reputation was with others. A sufficient portion of time was spent at the office, to give me the name of a student at law. I did try to read Blackstone, and did get through the first volume ; but I could not have told a principle contained in it. I did not know how to study. Here, too, my father seemed satisfied, for my conduct was apparently correct, at home, and he was too much engaged in his own concerns, to think much of mine. He took it for granted that now, at last, I must be doing well. My allowance was liberal for pocket muney, travelling expenses, and dress. I wanted nothing to make me a 'man,' except the disposition in my own heart.
Common pleasures began to pall upon my taste. I craved excitement. My love for my cousin was not extinguished, but I had become old enough to see the folly of indulging it. True, I never thought of her, I never can think of her, but with the purest feeling. Though still unmarried, and at an age when the charms that deck the maiden's cheek begin to fade, she is still lovely to me; she is still a girl — and when I chance to meet her now, she is to me the sweet companion of my walks and roamings about her delightful home. She is still the object of that ideal perfection in the shape of woman, which every young man frames for himself — the point about which his thoughts fasten, of what he would love - of what he wishes — of what he sighs and prays to possess.
Yes! excitement I craved. How many a one sells his soul for mirth and wild joy! - sells his reputation - barters his honor — his paternal honor, and blots the fair escutcheon of his family, for excitement! It tends to honorable enterprises, and it assumes all the forms of worldly affairs, under various modifications, but it is base, too. It sends the poor to the dram-shop, and the heir to the gambling house, who is the greatest fool of all; for with enough, or more than he can spend in the greatest profusion, he puts it in the power of fortune to ruin him, to make him a beggar. Or if he gains, he but adds to superfluous wealth. What is gambling, in such cases, but love of excitement ? It is like the man who tries how far he can stretch himself over a precipice without falling.
Love of excitement! it is the cause of vice in the young; for how distasteful and disgusting is gross dissipation to the novice! The example of others, a desire to be thought spirited, and off-hand, lead him into it, at first, and afterward he pursues as a good and an allevi. ation what he rejected as vile and unworthy. This life is nameless. Who can define it? Who can explain it ? Who can trace the steps to it? Once in, never out. The only pleasure is an unevenness of pain. We do not suffer so much to-day as yesterday, and we are happy, by comparison. But see the morning hours of your dissi. pated, worthless youth. The pure air, the bright sky, the bustling world, about him, seem but to mock his misery. He feels contemptible. He sits perhaps amidst a medicine-shop for his body, to frame some employment for the day; some scheme of vulgarity, some contrivance of vice, and all this perhaps as only an alleviation from pain. Embarked in his course, he appears, to the world, as intent upon some object of worthy interest; and he passes his acquaintance with the well-bred smile and bow of a happy heart. We envy him, so gay, so earnest is he — so much spirit, and life, and gayety - such openness and generosity.
Who, I say, can describe the actors in these scenes, but the actors themselves ? They who play the parts, know themselves wretched men. They have no hope. Life to them has no honorable ambitions. They know they will soon die, and they keep up the farce to cheat themselves of the dreadful consciousness of what they are,
• But what was the effect of this indulgence, lhis love of excitement, in you ? the reader asks. It led me into mad scenes of dissipation. It exhausted my moral feelings, and made me fit for any scene of gross debauchery. And then I awoke, when weary nature failed, to a full and stinging sense of my degradation. Thoughts, scorpionwinged, crowded upon me, and an over-wrought fancy supplied the horrors that made my sick couch a hell.
I sometimes left my father's house for weeks. I lived with a set. We supported and gave countenance to each other. We braved public opinion. A man cannot be dissipated in America, and hold his rank in society; there is too nice a moral standard. Society is too pure. The habits of the American people are too common. sense, to allow any tinsel or gaudy veil to make-believe hide the deformities of vice, and to offer an apology for our acquaintance and friends for clinging to us. Splendid talents will not shield the man who is morally delinquent; nor family connections ; nor even wealth, that mantle of oblivion for almost every sin, in other countries. The man or the woman, it matters not which, who offends the high principles of morality, is lost to society. Such are never received with confidence by respectable classes in society. They may have their
set; they may in some cases, by reformation, be tolerated; but they are stamped, and, Cain-like, they walk the earth. This strictness applies even to young and unmarried men, in that season of life when some liberty and some charity is usually bestowed upon the habitual thoughtlessness of youth. Rank, accidental rank, is the curse of society in Europe. A man is of no consequence in himself; it is his title which pleases. No matter what he is in propria persona,' whether a gambler, a rake, or a swindler; if he have a title, his reception is never questioned. Men, on this account, are not put to the cultivation of their dispositions and habits for goodness. This is al} a chance growth. He has nothing to gain, except in his own feelings ; and he follows the bent of his accidental impulses, which may be bad or may be good, satisfied that he cannot lose.
In an ignorant age, when books were rare, we can see the effects of this more plainly. The nobles were the tyrants, and the most abandoned and vicious part of the population; while virtue was found in the shade, in the quiet hamlet and lonely cottage. Domestic love, conjugal fidelity, paternal care, and fraternal affection, gladdened the humble hearth-stone of the laboring poor; while the castle and palace were the scenes of dark intrigue and secret murder. Father and son were at war. Brother fought with brother. Incest, debauchery, and rapine, were the vices of rulers, while morality and religion clothed the oppressed subject.
Now, literature is so much a fashion, and good books are so common in England, and every where else, and a few great examples are so conspicuous, that the higher classes have become more morally refined by the improvements of the age meeting their leisure and superior opportunities. But still, what gross laxity of morals do we hear of in Europe! What should we think in our country of a man who, with a grown-up family of daughters, should keep a mistress, and be seen with her in open day? Where can domestic aflection be, in such a case? What will probably be the principles of his children ? How can he advise his sons ? How can he protect his daughters ? And yet, after all, this man is honored, and is the bosom-confidant, it may be, of the very king himself.
It is enough to say, that I fell under the disrepute of the world. I lost my place in society. Mothers no longer cast inquiring eyes upon me. Smiles were more polite, and less cordial. My opinions were not disputed, but suffered to die unargued, like the first worked-up-tothe-point remark of a large overgrown boy at a dinner table, among old and experienced diners-out. As much as to say, in the latter case : Young. Sir, you are no judge of wine, or mutton,' and in my case: “Sir, you are no match for my daughters, and you are fast sinking into no body.'
To a man bad by system, this would have been nothing. He would, in his theory of conduct, have been prepared for slights and cuts ; but to me it was galling in the extreme, and sometimes drove me to desperation. For I was not bad at heart - so all my friends said — and I believed and still believe them. I always wished to do right. My errors pained me more than any one else. Why not correct them, then ?? says the reader. My dear friend - habit, HABIT did my business - education, want of energy, consequent upon a life of impulse. Did you ever try to correct a foible? Answer me, and then your own question will be answered.