« PreviousContinue »
We arrived at Philadelphia. On the way I received Yurton's money, without which we should have been ur.ble tu have finished our journey.
Collins wished to get employment as a merchaut'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 hiin some of it; promising to repay me as soon as a should get employment. At last he had drawn so much of this nioney, that I was extrenrely alarine. at what might become of me, should he fail to make good the defic ency. His habit of drinking did not at all diminish, and was a frequent source of discord be. tween 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." Lei us row, said the rest of the company; what signifies whether he assists or not. But, already angry with him for his conluct 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 liead fbremest into the river. I knew that he was a good swimmer, and was therefore under no appreliensions for his life. Before he could turn liimseil, we were able, by a few strokes of our nars, to place ourselves out of his reach; and, whenever he touched the hoat, we ask ed him if he would row, striking his hands at the same time with the oars to make hiin let go his hold. He was nearly suffocated with rave, 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 utinost coldness subsisted between us after this adventure. At last the captain
of a West-India ship, who was commissioned to pro. cure a tutor for the children of a gentleman at Barbadoes, meeting with Collics, offered hin the place. He accepted it, and took his leave of nie, promising !o disclarge the debt he owed me with the first money he should receive; but I have heard nothing or hins since.
The violation of the trust reposed in me by. Vernon, was one of the first great errors of my life; and i pxoves my father was not mistaken when he supposed me too young to be entrusted with the marragement of important affairs. But Sir William, upon reading his leiter, thought hin too prudent. There was a dil ference, he said, hetween individuals: years of matu rity were not always accompanied with discretion neither was youth in every instance devoid of it. “ 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 deterinined to have a good printer here, and I am sure you will succeed." This was said with so much see!. ing cordiality, that I suspected not for an instant the sincerity of the offer. I had hitherto kept the projeci, with which Sir William had inspired inc, of seitling 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 cliaracter than myself, would doubtless have advised me noi to trust him; for I afterwards learned that he was univcrsally known to be liberal of promises, wlien lie had no intention to perform. But having never soli. cited him, how could I suppose his offers to be deceitul? On the contrary, I believed him to be the bes Dan in the world.
I gave him the inventory of a small printing-office; the expense of which I had calculated at about a hun. dred pounds sterling. He expressed his approbation: but asked, if my presence in England, that I might choose the characters inyself, 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 ac. quaintance there, and establish a correspondence witb 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 seven 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 master Tyron, the capture of every fish as a sort of murder, committed with. out provocation, since these animals had neither done, nor were capable of doing, the smallest injury to any one that should justify the measure. This mode of reasoning I conceived to be unanswerable. Meanwhile, I had formerly been extremely fond of fish; and, when one of these cods 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 do...
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 frequently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and so frequently puz. zled him by my questions, which appearer at Sest 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 becaine at last ridiculously cautious, and would scarcely answer the inost plain and fa. miliar question without previously asking me-What would you inter from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for reiutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect. He was to propagate the docirine by preaching, and I tn re ute every opponent.
When he explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdisies which I refused to admit, unless he would ayree in turn to adopt some of my opinions. Keimer wore his beard long, because Moses had somewhero 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 hoth; but I consented to adopt them, provided he would agree to abstain from animal 1001. “ I doubt," said he, - whether iny constitution will be able to support it.” I assured him on the contrary, that he would hind himself the better for it. He was naturally a glut. ton, and I wished to amuse niysels by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regijnen, if I would hear him company; and, in reality, we continued it for three months. A woman in ihe neighbourhood prepared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes; in the composition of which there entered neither Jesh cor fish. This fancy was the more agreeable to me, as it turned to good account fur 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 ordmary diet, without experiencing the smallest inconvenience; which has led me to regaid as of no importance the advice commonly given, of introducing gradually such alterations of regionen.
I continued it cheerfully; but poor Keiner suffered terribly. Tireil of the projecı, he sighed for the fleshpots of Egypt. At length he ordered a roast pig, and invited me and two of our female acquaintance to (line with him; but the piy being ready a little too sooni, he could not resist the temptation, and eat it all up before we arrived.
During the circumstances I have related, I had paid soine attentions to Miss Read. I entertained for het te utnost esteein and affection; and I had reason to believe that these sentiments were mulual. 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 thoughi, it prudent to prevent matters being carried too far for the present, judging thar, 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 thcught that my expectations were not 60 well founded as I imagined.
My most intimate acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and Jaines Ralph, young men who were all foud of reading. The two first were clerks to Mr. Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attorneys in the town, and the other, clerkito à mer. chant. Watson was an upright, pious, and sensible young man: the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of ruligion, 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 frierdships, but too much inclined to the critic in matters of literature. Ralph was in. genious and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely eloquent. I do not remember to have met witla a more agreeable speaker. They were both enamoured of the muses, and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions.
It was the custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border the Skuylkill llere we read together, and afterwards conversed op what we read. Ralph was disposed to give himsel up eutirely to poetry. He lattered himself that do