Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

W> arrived at Philadelphia. On the way I received Vernon's money, without which we should have been unable to have finished our journey.

Collins wished to get employment as a merchant's clerk; but either his breath or his countenance betrayed his bad habit; for, though he had recommendations, he met with no success, and continued to lodge and eat with me, and at my expense. Knowing that I had Vernon's money, he was continually asking me to lend him some of it; promising to repay me as soon as h ihould'gei employment. At last he had drawn so much pf tiiis money, that I was extremely alarmed at what might become of me, should he fail to make good the deficiency. His habit of drinking did not at all diminish, and was a frequent source of discord between us; for when he had drank a little too much, he was very headstrong.

Being one day in a boat together, on the Delaware, with some other young persons, he refused to take his turn in rowing. "You shall row for me," said he," till we get home."—" No," I replied, "we will not row for you."—"You shall," said he, ''or remain upon the water all night."—"As you please." Lev us row, said the rest of the company; what signifies whether he assists or not. Cut, already angry with him for his conduct in other respects, I persisted in my refusal. He then swore that he would make me row, or would throw me out of the boat; and he made up to me. As soon as he was within my reach, I took him by the collar, gave him a violent thrust, and threw him headforemost into the river. I knew that he was a good swimmer, and was therefore under no apprehensions for his life. Before he could turn himself, we were able, by a few strokes of our oars, to place ourselves out of his reach; and, whenever he touched the boat, we asked him if he would row, striking his hands at the same time with the oars to make him let go his hold. He was nearly suffocated with rage, but obstinately refused making any promise to row. Perceiving, at length, that his strength began to be exhausted, we took him into the boat, and conveyed him home in the evening completely drenched. The utmost coldness subsisted between us after this adventure. At last the captain of a West-India ship, who was commissioned to procure a tutor for the children of a gentleman at Barbarioes, meeting with Collars, ofleied him the place. He accepted it, and took his leave of me, promising to discharge the debt he owed me with the first money he should receive; bull have heard nothing of him since.

The violation of the trust reposed in me by Vernon, was one of the first great errors of my life; and i l*wes my father was not mistaken when he supposed me too young to be entrusted with the management of important affairs. But Sir William, upon reading his letter, thought him too prudent. There was a difference, he said, between individuals: years of maturity were not always accompanied with discretion, neither was youth in every instance devoid of if. "Since your father," added he, will not set you up in business, I will do it myself. Make out a list of what will be wanted from England, and I will send for the articles. You shall repay me when you can. I am determined to have a good printer here, and I am sure you will succeed." This was said with so much seeming cordiality, that I suspected not for an instant the sincerity of the offer. I had hitherto kept the project, with which Sir William had inspired me, of settling in business, a secret at Philadelphia, and I still continued to do so. Had my reliance on the governor been known, some friend, better acquainted with his character than myself, would doubtless have advised me not to trust him; for I afterwards learned that he was universally known to be liberal of promises, when he had no intention to perform. But having never solicited him, how could I suppose his offers to be deceit^il? On the contrary, I believed him to be the bes nan in the world.

I gave him an inventory of a small printing-office; the expense of which I had calculated at about a hundred pounds sterling. He expressed his approbation . but asked,';if my presence in England, that I might choose the characters myself, and see that every article was good in its kind, would not be an advantage? "You will also be able," said he, "to form some acquaintance there, and establish a correspondence will/ stationers and booksellers." This I acknowledged was desirable. "That being the case," added he, "hold yourself in readiness to go with the Annis." This was the annual vessel, and the only one, at that time, which made regular voyages between the ports of London and Philadelphia. But the Annis was not to sail for some months. I therefore continued to work with Keimer, unhappy respecting the sum which Collins had drawn from me, and almost in continual agony at the thoughts of Vernon, who fortunately made no demand of his money till several years after. In the account of my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, I omitted, I believe, a trifling circumstance, which will not, perhaps, be out of place here. During a calm, which stopped us above Block Island, the crew employed themselves in fishing for cod, of which they caught a great number. I had hitherto adhered to my resolution of not eating any thing that had possessed life; and I considered, on this occasion, agreeably to the maxims of my masterTyron, the capture of every fish as a sort of murder, committed without provocation, since these animals had neither done, nor were capable of doing, the smallest injury to any one that should justify the measure. Thismode of reasoning I conceived to be unanswerable. Meanwhile, I had formerly been extremely fond of fish; and, when one of these cod was taken out of the frying-pan, I thought its flavour delicious. I hesitated some time between principle and inclination, till at last recollecting, that when the cod had been opened some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, if you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. I accordingly dined on the cod with no small degree of pleasure, and have since continued to eat like the rest of mankind, returning only occasionally to my vegetable plan. How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination to dp.'

I continued to live upon good terms with Keimer, who had not the smallest suspicion of my projected establishment. He still retained a portion of his former enthusiasm, and, being fond of argument, we iretruently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and so frequently pussled him by my questions,which appeared at first very distant from the point in debate, yet, nevertheless, led to it by degrees, involving him in difficulties and contradictions from which he was unable to extricate himself, that he became at last ridiculously cautious, and would scarcely answer the most plain and faDiiliar question without previously asking me—What would you infer from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for refutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect. He was to propagate the doctrine by preaching, and I to refute every opponent.

VVhen fie explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdities which I refused to admit, unless he would agree in turn to adopt some of my opinions. Ke'nncr wore his heard long, because Moses had somewhere said, " Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard." He likewise observed the Sabbath; and these were with him two very essential points. I disliked them toth; but I consented to adopt them, provided ho .rt'ould agree to abstain from animal mod. "I doubt," (aid he," whether my constitution will be able to support it." I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. He was naturally a glutton, and I wished to amuse myself by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regimen, if I would bear him company; and, in reality, we continued it for three months. A woman in the neighbourhood

[ircpared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes; in the composition of which there entered neither flesh nor fish. This fancy was the more agreeable to me, as it turned to good account; for the whole expense of our living did not exceed for each, eighteen-pence a week.

I have since that period observed several Lents with the greatest strictness, and have suddenly returned again to my ordinary diet, without experiencing the smallest inconvenience; which has led me to regard as of no importance the advice commonly given, of introducing gradually such alterations of regimen.

I continued it cheerfully; but poor Keimer suffered terribly. Tire* I of the project, he sighed for the lleshjiots of Egypt. At length he ordered a roast pig, and invited me and two of our female acquaintance to dine with him; but the pig being ready a little too soon, he could not resist the temptation, and eat it all up before we arrived.

During the circumstances I have related, I had paid some attentions to Miss Read. I entertained for her the utmost esteem and affection; and I had reason to believe that these sentiments were mutual. But we were both young, scarcely more than eighteen years of age; and, as I was on the point of undertaking a long voyage, her mother thought it prudent to prevent matters being carried too far for the present, iudging thai, if marriage was our object, there would be more propriety in it after my return, when, as at least I expected, I should be established in my business. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.

My most intimate acquaintance at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph i young menwho were all fond of reading. Tlietwohrst were clerks to Mr. Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attorneys in the town, and the other, clerfcfto a merchant. Watson was an upright, pious, and sensible youngTnan: the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, whose faith, as well as that of Collins, I had contributed to shake , each of whom made me suffer a very adequate punishment. Osborne was sensible,and sincere and affectionate in his friendships, but too much inclined to the critic in matters of literature. Ralph was ingenuous and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely eloquent I do not remember to have met with a more agreeable speaker. They were both enamoured of the muses, and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions.

It was a custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border the SkuylkilL Here we read together, and afterwards conversed on what we read. Ralph was disposed to give himself up entirely to poetry. He flattered himself that M

« ZurückWeiter »