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Don't you consider, sir, that in proportion as you lessen the dignity of the ladies, you lessen the dignity of your affections for them, and consequently, your own happiness in them, which must for ever keep pace with your ideas of their excellence. This was certainly a home thrust; and most readers would suppose, that Ben was in a fair way to crow over his antagonist; but, Collins was a young man of too much pride and talents to give up so easily. A spirited retort, of course, was made; a rejoinder followed, and thus the controversy was kept up until the watchman brawling twelve o'clock, reminded our stripling orators that it was time for them to quit the old school-house; which with great reluctance they did: but without being any nearer the end of their argu-ment than when they began.
THE shades of midnight had parted our young combatants, and silent and alone, Ben had trotted home to bis printing-office; but still in his restless thoughts the combat raged in all its fury: still burning for victory, where truth and the ladies were at stake, he fell to mustering his arguments again, which now at the drum beat of recollection came crowding on him so thick and strong that he felt equally ashamed and astonished that he had not utterly crushed his antagonist at once. He could see no reason on earth why Collins had made a drawn: battle of it, but by his vastly superior eloquence. To deprive him of this advantage, Ben determined to attack him with his pen. And to this he felt the greater inclination, as they were not to meet again for several nights. So, committing his thoughts to paper, and taking a fair copy, he sent it to him. Collins. who, "was not born in the woods to be scared by an owl," quickly answered, and Ben rejoined. In this way several vollies had passed on both sides, when good old Josias chanced to light upon them all; both the copies of Ben's letters to Collins and the answers. He read them with a deep interest, and that very night sent for Ben that he might talk with him on their contents. “So Ben!” said he to him as he pressed his beloved hand, "you have got into a paper war already, have you?”
I don't mean to blame you, my son, continued the old gentleman. I don't blame you; on the contrary I am delighted to see you taking such pains to improve your mind. Go on, my dear boy, go on; for your mind is the only part that is worth your care: and the more you accustom yourself to find your happiness in that the better.
The body, as I have a thousand times told you, is but nicely organized earth, that in spite of the daintiest meats and clothes, will soon grow old and withered, and then die and rot back to earth again. But the Mind, Ben, is the HEAVENLY part, the IMMORTAL inhabitant, who, if early nursed with proper thoughts and affections, is capable of a feast that will endure for ever.
This your little controversy with your friend Collins is praise worthy, because it has a bearing on that grand point, the improvement of your mind.
But let me suggest a hint or two, my son, for your bet. ter conduct of it. You have greatly the advantage of Mr. Collins, in correctness of spelling and pointing; which you owe entirely to your profession as a printer; but then he is as far superior to you in other respects. He certainly has not so good a cause as you have, but he manages it better. He clothes his ideas with such elegance of expression, and arranges bis arguments with so much perspicuity and art, as will captivate all readers in his favour, and snatch the victory from you, notwithstanding your better cause. In confirmation of these remarks, the old gentleman drew from his pocket the letters of their correspondence, and read to him several passages, as strong cases in point.
Ben sensibly felt the justice of these criticisms, and after thanking bis father for his goodness in making them, assured him, that as he delighted above all things in reading books of a beautiful style, so he was resolved to spare no pains to acquire so divine an art.
The next day, going into a fresh part of the town, with a paper to a new subscriber, he saw, on the side of the street, a little table spread out and covered with a parcel of toys, among which lay an odd volume, with a
neat old woman sitting by. As he approached the table to look at the book, the old lady lifting on him a most pleasant countenance, said, "well my little man do you ever dream dreams?
Ben rather startled at so strange a salutation, replied, that he had dream't in his time.-Well, continued the old woman, and what do you think of dreams; do you put any faith in 'em?
Why, no, madam, answered Ben; as I have seldom had dreams except after taking too hearty a supper, I have always looked on 'em as a mere matter of indigestion, and so have never troubled my head much about’em.
Well now, replied the old lady laughing, there's just the difference between you and me. I, for my part, always takes great notice of dreams, they generally turn out so true. And now can you tell what a droll dream I had last night.
Ben answered that he was no Daniel to interpret dreams,
Well, said the old lady, I dreamed last night, that a little man just like you, came along here and bought that old book of me.
Aye! why that's a droll dream sure enough, replied Ben; and pray, Madam, what do you ask for your old book?
Only four pence half penny, said the old lady.
Well, Madam, continued Ben, as your dreaming has generally, as you say, turned out true, it shall not be otherwise now; there's your money-so now as you have another reason for putting faith in dreams, you can dream again.
As Ben took up his book to go away, the old lady said, stop a minute, my son, stop a minute I have not told you the whole of my dream yet. Then looking very gravely at him, she said, But though my dream showed that the book was to be bought by a little man, it did not say he was always to be little. No; for I saw, in my dream, that he grew up to be a GREAT man; the lightnings of heaven played around his head, and the shape of a kingly crown was beneath his feet. I heard his name as
a pleasant sound from distant lands, and I saw it through clouds of smoke and flame, among the tall victor ships that strove in the last battle
for the freedom of the seas. She uttered this with a raised voice and glowing cheek, as though the years to come, with all their mighty deeds, were passing before her.
Ben was too young yet to suspect who this old woman was, though he felt as he had read the youthtul Telemachus did, when the fire-eyed Minerva, in the shape of Mentor, roused his soul to virtue.
Farewell, Madam, said Ben with a deep sigh, as he went away; you might have spared that part of your dream, for I am sure there is very little chance of its ever coming to pass.
But though Ben went away to attend to his brother's business, yet the old woman's looks made such an impression on his mind, that he could not help going the next day to see her again; but she was not there any
On leaving the old woman, he opened his book, when behold what should it be but an odd volume of the Spectator, a book which he had not seen before. The number to which he chanced to open was the vision of Mirzah; which so caught bis attention that he could not take it off until he had got through. What the people thought of him for reading in that manner as he walked along the street, he knew not; nor did he once think, he was so taken up with his book. He felt as though he would give the world to write in so enchanting a style; and to that end he carried his old volume constantly in his pocket, that by committing, as it were, to memory, those sweetly flowing lines, he might stand a chance to fall into the imitation of them. He took another curious method to catch Adilison's charming style; he would select some favourite chapter out of the Spectator, make short summaries of the sense of each period, and put thein for a tew days aside; then without looking at the book, he would endeavour to restore the chapter to its first form, by expressing each thisught at full length.
These exercises soon convinced liim that he greatly lacked a fund of words, and a facility of employing theni; both of which he thought wouid have been abune dantly supplied, had he but continued his old trade f making verses. The continual need of words of the
same meaning, but of different lengths for the measure; or of different sounds, for the rhyme, would have obliged him to seek a variety of synonymes. From this belief he took some of the papers and turned them into verse; and after he had sufficiently forgotten them, he again converted them into prose.
On comparing his Spectator with the original, he discovered many faults; but panting, as he did, for perfection in this noble art, nothing could discourage him. He bravely persevered in his experiments, and though he lamented that in most instances he still fell short of the charming original, yet in some he thought he had clearly improved the order and style. And when this happened, it gave him unspeakable satisfaction, as it sprung the dear hope that in time he should succeed in writing the English language in the same enchanting manner.
ABOUT this time, which was somewhere in his sixteenth year, Ben lighted on a very curious work, by one Tryon, recommending vegetable diet altogether, and condemning "animal food as a great crime." He read it with all the avidity of a young and honest mind that wished to renounce error and embrace truth. "From start to pole,” as the racers say, his conscience was under the lash, pointing at him as the dreadful SARCOPHAGIST, or MEAT EATER alluded to by this severe writer. He could not, without horror reflect, that young as he was, his stomach had yet been the grave of hundreds of lambs, pigs, birds, and other little animals, "who had never injured him." And when he extended this dismal idea over the vast surface of the globe, and saw the whole human race pursuing and butchering the poor brute creation, filling sea and land with cries and blood and slaughter, he felt a depression of spirits with an anguish of mind that strongly tempted him, not only to detest man, but even to charge God himself with cruelty. But this distress did not continue long. Im