« PředchozíPokračovat »
her whose good opinion I found was so dear to me. To leave her in disgrace, and to be forgotten, as a lost and unworthy acquaintance, was more than I could brook. I had sundry severe visitings of conscience. My first determination was, to go to the parson. While revolving in my mind what to do, I was joined by some of my associates in frivolity and vice. They soon dispelled the idea, and a new proposition, more suited to my old views, was made and acquiesced in ; and soon all feeling was benumbed in the inordinate cup. It has been well said that the devil takes his own method to destroy those whom he has first led astray. Half-inebriation removes all qualms, and gives a man a good opinion of himself; and I soon began to reason favorably upon my own miscon. duct. At last I became so eloquent, that I determined to try it on? others. I posted off to the clergyman's, inquired for his daughter, and was shown into the room.
I rose as the door opened, expecting to meet the daughter, but to my great discomfiture it was the father. The good pastor looked fixedly at me, and I became sadly embarrassed as the idea of my situation flashed across my mind. I endeavored to speak, but my eloquence had all vanished. My tongue clave to the roof of my mouth,' and I could not utter a word. I was fully prepared for severe reproach, not only for my conduct but for my presumption. I waited for him to begin. Observing that I did not speak, he motioned me to be seated. I sat down mechanically, for I could easier do it than walk. He took a seat nearly opposite to me, with his eyes fixed on the floor. I took this for the gathering of a storm; but when he raised them, I could see the tears stand. ing in them. At length he broke silence. “John,' he said, “I could have followed you to your grave with less regret than I now speak to you. What must be the feelings of your parents, when they read a letter which I have just written them? While there was hope that youthful folly was your only sin, I trusted that reform would not be dif. ficult; but when I find drunkenness and crime associated in a boy of your age, I cease to hope. You have succeeded in deceiving me, who never thought that any thing dishonorable could find a place in your imagination. But a full and complete history of your misconduct has reached my ear. I do not wish to upbraid you; your own conscience will do that. Your true situation is not better known to yourself than it is to me.
The very fact of your coming here, in your present condition, must convince you of your lost sense of shame. Yet with all this there is life left yet and with it hope. No restraint can effect a change, unless it be a voluntary one ; and only years, long years of the most ex. emplary life, can do away the impression already made, or convince me that you are worthy to enter my doors again. You have ventured to ask for my daughter. Did you think that I would permit her to come into the presence of one who has put at defiance every law of society, of God and of man? No, John ; you can never see her again, unless in my presence, until Iam entirely satisfied that you are a changed man.'
The good pastor's conversation had been harsher than his manner; and I found myself, instead of being roused as I expected to be, selfcondemned, and could say nothing. At length I found words to say: • You might have saved your advice; my friends will never see me more
until I can convince them that I have seen my error. I came here to say that I was about to leave the country, and to thank you for having ever acted toward me as a friend. It is true I felt a desire to say good-bye to your daughter, and to tell her that if she ever saw or heard of me again, it would be when I had entirely changed my manner of life. I confess it grieves me more that I must leave her in disgrace, than any thing else. I have been most honorable in all my views toward her; and my deepest regret at this moment is, that she can never think of me save as one guilty and despised. I hope she may be as happy as I am sure to be miserable.'
* I can answer for you,' said the parson ; ‘you will be miserable, take what course you will. If you continue in your vices, you only prolong it. The labor of reform will be a long and tedious work ; and the sooner it is begun, the sooner will it be ended. I can see no good that could arise from your seeing my daughter, nor from any advice that I can give you now. I understand your feelings at this moment; but the inordinate cup will soon drown all shame. Go where you will, it will be the same, unless you quit it entirely. Your associations here are bad, and the sooner they are broken up the better. Go; and may GOD teach you to see and feel aright, is all I can say. I shall offer you no money ; if I have any to spare, it shall be for your victim.'
I rose, and to my astonishment walked as though I had not drank a drop. The reproof to which I had listened had entirely sobered me. When I reached the door, to which the minister had followed me, I held out my hand, for I felt no ill will toward him. He pressed it with a warm grasp, and bade me 'God speed.' My heart was too full to speak, and I walked away. I had not determined on my course before; but now that I knew my parents had a full account of my delinquencies, I determined to say nothing to any one, but to watch my chance, and be off for America. While I was detained, waiting a passage to the new world, I received a note from the clergyman's daughter, appointing a meeting with me. The interview was conducted with the strictest propriety. She had heard of my conduct, but she felt more certain of my reform than her father. Before we parted, it was agreed that I should keep her advised of my movements; that I would give her a true account of my habits and prospects. She assured me that if I became settled, and successful enough to send her the means, she would follow and marry me. I at once determined and promised that I would do so. A few days after, I got word that a vessel was ready to sail. I packed up all I had, leaving behind me my watch, and a number of unpaid bills, for I knew they would be paid by my father.
There was nothing in my voyage that was remarkable, save its length. I was tossed about for thirty days on the great deep, and during nearly the whole time I was deadly sea-sick. On landing, I had a stout resolution ; for I found an encouraging and kind friend in the captain. I had changed my name, to one which I knew would not be recognized, when I came on board ; and when I landed I had become so well used to it that I had forgotten I had no other. My first employment was as an under-clerk to the ship owners. I should have succeeded well with them, but they discovered my real name, having heard me inquire for
letters to that address at the post-office. This circumstance made a most unfavorable impression upon their minds; and finding that I was watched, I asked permission to leave. From New York I went to Philadelphia, where I was very fortunate in getting employment in an extensive lumber-yard. I now exerted myself to the utmost, and became satisfied that I should succeed. A year soon rolled round, and found me still busy. I was stout and active; drank nothing but an occasional mug of beer ; strove to please my employers; and indeed well nigh injured my health, by often lending a hand to load up heavy lumber. But woman was to prove my ruin! I became acquainted with many young women, some of whom were highly respectable, although not wealthy; they did not suspect me of any unfairness; but to my shame, in an evil hour I took advantage of trusting innocence, and was compelled to run away. How deeply did I regret this step!
It was the last hold I had on respectability ; for 1 now felt that I deserved to be an outlaw. I determined to go to the Great West, for every body seemed going there. I had saved some money, and was soon at the end of my land-route, at Pittsburgh. I resolved to keep on to Wheeling, Cincinnati, and Louisville, thence to St. Louis. There I found it necessary to stop, and procure employment, for my money was getting low. I was taken into a tavern as a bar-keeper, and was soon distinguished for promptness and attention. I should have done well here, but that the liquor was too "handy. The landlord was a wet' soul, and when I made him a toddy, he always said, Make one for yourself. At last, I beat him at his own game; and when he turned his back, I did make one for my. self,' and none for him. I soon became dull, cross, and inperious, and was not long in doing away with the good opinion I had gained, and finally was dismissed.
I was now a poor devil. I had learned to take such heavy potations, that I was miserable without liquor; and having no means, I shipped as a deck-hand on board of a steam-boat. When I first took the situa. tion of book-keeper, I believed my success could not be doubted; and the first fifty dollars I had, I sent over for the parson's daughter. After my dismissal, I wrote her not to come, as the scene had changed. I was too late; she had come out to New York, and wrote to me at once, that she was a governess in the family of a respectable English lady, with whom she oame passenger, and would remain there until I could send for her. I was now a worthless vagabond – a deck-hand on board a steam-boat. I knew not what to do. I stepped up to the furnace, and threw the letter in. This was fortunate ; for being half drunk, I forgot the address, and did not even answer the letter.
I was not long on the steam-boat before my steaming' propensities gained me leave to go ashore ; and then I said to myself, "What in Heaven's name next? Iam no longer able to be a laboreron a steam-boat. If I was at home, I could enlist as a soldier, but I can't enlist here, for I may have to fight against my own country. Necessity gave me a little time to think. My pockets were empty, and I was therefore sober. I had known several officers while I was at the tavern ; and I determined in my own mind to go on foot to Jefferson Barracks. I made my ap
plication to one of the officers, and he soon got me a chance to kiss the book,' and I was soon in a soldier's coat. I presently became a frequent visitor at the sutler's shop and guard-house, for one seemed naturally to lead to the other. It seldom failed, when I had got a taste of rum, that I did not find my way to the guard-house when sober. I could write a good hand, and I was therefore kept in the office much of my time writing for the quarter-master. I found him a gentleman in all things. He frequently told me what would be my fate if I persisted in my career of drunkenness. I took occasion one day to say to the surgeon that I wished he would cure me of my besetting sin. He said that if I would come to him when I felt the desire to drink, he would prepare a nauseating drug, and administer it to me in different kinds of liquor, which might give me a dislike for them all. I found little benefit from the medicine ; but having made up my mind to resist the inclination, and when I did drink to take a dose that was sure to sicken me, I got so that I could live without it.
I was now a general favorite ; was made a corporal, and soon after, a sergeant. With my new honors, came reflection. I began to think of my conduct toward her who had left friends and all for me. I wrote to an acquaintance in New York, and got him to ascertain what had become of the parson's daughter. I had fortunately recollected the name of the vessel she came out in, the time of her arrival, and the names of the firm to whom she was consigned. From these circumstances he was enabled to learn the names of the passengers, and as there was but one family among them, he soon found the residence of the parson's daughter. He gained an introduction ; spoke of me as having been a fellow-clerk with him; and related to her as much of my history as was contained in my letter. The angel, for I must call her so, was still true to her old affection. She told him that she could take care of herself until some turn in my affairs should enable me to take care of her; she begged him to inform me that while life lasted she should prove herself worthy of the character her parents her; that her affections were unalterably mine; that the country which held me would always hold her also ; and that if at any time I thought proper to claim her, I might do so, however degraded I might be in my own eyes; for that I was the only man she ever had loved or ever could love. She told my friend to tell me to write to her direct — that I required no agent. This latter expression convinced me that she thought I had doubted whether her affection would stand the test of change in my circumstances.
Immediately on the receipt of this letter, I wrote to her, and told her the whole truth, and of my fixed determination to drink no more. I also stated that more than one of my three years was already gone; and that at the expiration of my enlistment, I should have means to come to New York and seek honorable employment. I had never written my parents, and but for her sake I never should. I would now defer it until we met. My regiment was under orders for the frontier of Texas, and I could hardly refrain from telling my story to my captain, and begging him to intercede for my discharge. But I thought it better to continue a little longer under the restraint which my appoint
ment imposed upon me. No material change took place until I was ordered to Florida. When I arrived at New Orleans, I met with an English ship-captain from my own town. Nothing had been heard of me since I left my studies, and it was generally believed that I had gone to the Indies, that being the common receptacle for young adventurers.
I have been in Florida since my regiment first entered it. I was slightly wounded at the battle of Oakacholee, but would not report it, fearing lest a list of the wounded might be published. I saw the noble Thompson when he fell, and Vonswearingen, Brooke, and Center : the brave little Walker was covered with wounds, and yet survived. I was also with Major Noel when he was wounded by his own pistol. I am now on my last month; my lady-love is still living; and I am determined, as soon as I am discharged, to be off for New York. I have sent already and procured a citizen's suit. My settlement with the pay-master will give me two hundred dollars or more; beside, I have entirely overcome drunkenness, which is of more value to me than much fine gold.' I expect to learn from St. Marks when a vessel will sail, and I can get my furlough at any time I ask for it. I am well satistied with the service, and can only say that if no one but myself was concerned in my fate, I would risk my preferment, as I believe every young man of education and steady habits may be brought forward.
JOHN JOHNSON obtained his furlough and sailed for New York. He repaired at once to his lady-love, who greeted him with tears of joy. She had written to her father, and he had written to Johnson. They had all agreed, that if ever he reformed and married, they would joy. fully receive them home. John's two hundred dollars were added to the money saved by the frugality of the parson's daughter; and this paid the passage back of the happiest couple that ever graced a British steam-packet. A letter was written to his company, describing the manner in which they were received. Many a tear of congratulation was shed, when their parents received their truant children. The veteran parson was heard to say, that good example had done much for his daughter, and that her undeviating virtue and love had reclaimed the Yankee soldier. He believed their trip to America would be of service to them; he enjoined on them the strongest principles of temperance and frugality, and set forth the blessings, here and hereafter, of true piety. John Johnson cast off his assumed name, resumed his own, and endeavored by all proper means to compensate the parson's daughter for her well-tried affection.