I find a father
after tying up, I was at liberty to renovate my person.
My shore-clothes restored me to the semblance of my former self, and, with many a protest of good — will from my late companions, I walked towards the city.
In a few hours I reached St. Charles Street, and, as though wearied with its persecution of me, Fortune brought me into the presence of Mr. Stanley
His reception of me was so paternal that the prodigal son could not have been more delighted.
My absence from New Orleans had but intensified my affection for the only friend I seemed to possess in all America
Once out of his presence, I felt as a stranger among strangers; on re-entering it, I became changed outwardly and inwardly.
Away from him, I was at once shy, silent, morosely severe; with him, I was exuberantly glad, and chatted freely, without fear of repulse.
Since we had parted, I had met some thousands, and spoken with a few hundreds; but no one had kindled in me the least spark of personal interest.
It may, then, be understood how my greeting expressed my sense of his preeminence and rarity.
Between the last sentence and what follows, there should be an interval represented by many * * * * * *. I do not know how it came about, but I was suddenly fixed immovably, for a period.
Preoccupied with my bursting gladness, I had observed nothing but our mutual gratification; and then I had poured my tale of woes unchecked, except by an expression of sympathy, now and again, from him. But, presently, after some commonplaces, his words sounded a deeper note, and stirred my innermost being.
A peculiar sensation — as though the wind of a strong breathing was flowing down my back, and ran up with a refluent motion to the head, blowing each hair apart — came over me, and held me spellbound and thrilled to the soul.
He was saying, with some
emotion, that my future should be his charge
! He had been so powerfully affected by what Margaret had told him, with all the warmth of her Irish nature, of the last scene at the deathbed of his wife, that he had been unable to dissociate me from his thoughts of her; he had wondered what I was doing, what had become of me, imagined that I was starving, and, knowing how friendless and unsophisticated I was, each conjecture had been dismal and pitiful; and he had resolved, on reaching New Orleans, to make diligent search for me, and take me to himself.
While he related his extraordinary intentions, it seemed to me as if my spirit was casting an interested regard upon my own image, and was glorying in the wonderful transformation that was taking place.
To think that any man should be weaving such generous designs upon a person so unworthy and insignificant as myself, and plotting a felicitous future for me, nursed in contumely and misery, seemed to me to be too wonderful for belief!
Then, again, there was a certain mysterious coincidence about it which awed me. In my earliest dreams and fancies, I had often imagined what kind of a boy I should be with a father or mother.
What ecstasy it would be if my parent came to me, to offer a parent's love, as I had enviously seen it bestowed on other children.
In my secret prayers, something of a wish of this kind had been behind the form of words; and now, as an answer from the Invisible, came this astounding revelation of His power!
He had cast a little leaven of kindness into the heart of a good man. From the very first encounter, it had acted beneficially for me and now it had leavened his whole nature, until it had become a fatherly affection, which would shield my youth from trial and temptation, and show me the best side of human nature!
Before I could quite grasp all that this declaration meant for me, he had risen, taken me by the hand, and folded me in a gentle embrace.
My senses seemed to whirl about for a few half-minutes: and, finally, I broke down, sobbing from extreme emotion.
It was the only tender action I had ever known, and, what no amount of cruelty could have forced from me, tears poured in a torrent under the influence of the simple embrace.
The golden period of my life began from that supreme
As I glance back at it from the present time, it seems more like a dream, as unreal as a vision of the night.
Compared with these matter-of-fact days, or the ruthless past, it was like a masquerade among goodly felicities and homely affections, and its happy experiences have been too precious and sacred for common chat, though they have lain near enough for the fitting occasion, moulded and ready for utterance.
They have formed my best memories, and furnished me with an unfading store of reflections, and, probably, have had more influence than any other upon my conduct and manners.
For, to be lifted out of the depths of friendlessness and destitution to a paternal refuge, and made the object of care and solicitude so suddenly, at a time, too, when I was most impressionable, without an effort on my own part, and without an advocate, bordered on the miraculous.
Predisposed to inward communing, with a strong but secret faith in Providence
, I regarded it as principally the result of a Divine interposition, the course of which was a mystery not to be lightly talked of, but to be remembered for its significance.
After a restful night, and when breakfast had been despatched, we adjourned to a room used as an office and sitting apartment, and there I was subjected to a sympathetic cross-examination.
Every incident of my life, even to the fancies that had fled across the mind of callow boyhood, was elicited with the assistance of his searching questions, and then I was, as it were, turned completely inside out. Mr. Stanley
said that what I had told him only bore out the conclusion he had long before arrived at concerning me. He had suspected that I was an orphan, or one who had been flatly disowned, and a waif exposed to every wind of Chance; and he was glad that it had deposited me in his keeping.
He expressed amazement that helpless children were treated so unfeelingly in England
, and marvelled that no one cared to claim them.
Being a childless man, he and his wife had often prayed for the blessing of offspring, until they were wearied with desiring and expecting.
Then they had gone to the Faubourg St. Mary
, and had visited the Infant Asylum
, with the view of adopting some unclaimed child; but they had made no choice, from over-fastidiousness.
It much surprised him that none of my
relations had discovered in me what had struck him and Speake
Had he searched New Orleans all through, he said, he could not have found one who would have shared his views respecting me with more sympathy than his friend; and, had Mr. Speake
lived, he added, I should have been as good as established for life.
had written his estimates of my character often, and, in one letter, had predicted that I was cut out for a great merchant, who would eventually be an honour to the city.
, the book-keeper, had also professed to be impressed with my qualities; while young Richardson
had said I was a prodigy of activity and quick grasp of business.
Then, at some length, he related the circumstances which had induced him to take a warmer interest in me. He had often thought of the start I had given him by the question, “Do you want a boy, sir?”
It seemed to voice his own life-long wish.
But he thought I was too big for his purpose.
For the sake, however, of the long-desired child, he determined to do the best he could for me, and had obtained my engagement with his friend Speake
When he had gone home, his wife had been much interested in the adventure with me, and had often asked how his “protege” was getting on?
When she had, finally, seen me, she had said something to him which had given a new turn to his thoughts; but, as I was already established, and was likely to succeed, he had ceased thinking about it. On Margaret's arrival at St. Louis
with his wife's remains, she had been so eloquent in all the details of what had occurred, that he inwardly resolved that his first object on reaching the city should be to seek me and undertake what God had pointed out to him; namely, to educate me for the business of life, and be to me what my father should have been.
“The long and the short of it is,” said he, “as you are wholly unclaimed, without a parent, relation, or sponsor, I promise to take you for my son, and fit you for a mercantile career; and, in future, you are to bear my name, “Henry Stanley.”
” Having said which, he rose, and, dipping his hands in a basin of water, he made the sign of the cross on my forehead, and went seriously through the formula of baptism, ending with a brief exhortation to bear my new name worthily.
In answer, as it might seem, to the least shade of doubt on
my face, which he thought he observed, he gave me a brief summary of his own life, from which I learned that he had not always been a merchant.
He told me that he had been educated for the ministry, and had been ordained, and for two years had preached in various places between Nashville
; but, finally, becoming lukewarm, he had lost his original enthusiasm for his profession, and had turned his attention to commerce.
Intimacy with men of business, and social life, had led him by degrees to consider himself unfitted for a calling which seemed to confine his natural activities; but, though he had lost the desire to expound the Christian
faith from the pulpit, he had not lost his principles.
The greater gains of commerce had seemed to him to be more attractive than the work of persuading men and women to be devout.
After one or two unsuccessful essays as a storekeeper, he had finally adopted a commission business, and had succeeded in several profitable ventures.
He thought that, in a few years, he would return to the store business, and settle in ‘one of the back-country places’ for which he had a great hankering; but, at present, he could not make up his mind to terminate his city connections.
Much else he related to me, for it was a day of revelations; but to me, personally, it mattered little — it was quite sufficient that he was he, my first, best friend, my benefactor, my father!
Only the close student of the previous pages could compass my feelings at finding the one secret wish of my heart gratified so unexpectedly.
To have an unbreathed, unformed wish plucked out of the silence, and fashioned into a fact as real as though my dead father had been restored to life and claimed me, was a marvel so great that I seemed to be divided into two individuals--one strenuously denying that such a thing could be, and the other arraying all the proofs of the fact.
It was even more of a wonder than that Dick
the boy should be transformed into Alice the girl!
But when hour after hour passed, and each brought its substantial evidence of the change, the disturbed faculties gradually returned to their normal level, though now more susceptible to happiness than when existence was one series of mortifications.
As we walked the streets together, many a citizen must have guessed by my glowing face and shining eyes that I was
brimful of joy. I began to see a new beauty in everything.
The men seemed pleasanter, the women more gracious, the atmosphere more balmy!
It was only by severe suppression that I was able to restrain myself from immoderate behaviour, and breaking out into hysteric and unseemly ebullience.
A gush of animal enjoyment in life, from this date, would sometimes overtake me, and send me through the streets at the rate of a professional pedestrian.
I would open my mouth and drink the air, with deep disdain for all physical weakness.
I had to restrain the electrical vitality, lest the mad humour for leaping over a dray or cart might awaken the suspicion of the policeman.
On such days, and during such fits, it was indeed joy to be alive,--“but to be young was very Heaven.”
Most of the day was spent in equipping me for the new position I was to assume.
I was sumptuously furnished with stylish suits, new linen, collars, flannels, low-quarter shoes, and kip1
boots: toilet articles
to which I was an utter stranger, such as tooth-and nail-brushes
, and long white shirts, resembling girls' frocks, for night-dresses.
It had never entered my head, before, that teeth should be brushed, or that a nail-brush was indispensable, or that a night-dress contributed to health and comfort!
When we returned to Mr. Stanley
's boarding-house, we had a pleasant time in the arrangement of the piles of new garments and accessories, and in practising the first lessons in the art of personal decoration.
the inhabitants considered it unbecoming in one who aspired to manliness to ape the finicky niceties of women, and to be too regardful of one's personal appearance; and had they heard my new father descant so learnedly on the uses of tooth-and nail-brushes
, I feel sure they would have turned away with grimaces and shrugs of dissatisfaction.
What would stern Aunt Mary have said, had she viewed this store of clothing and linen that was destined for the use of a boy whom, at one time, she had seriously meditated indenturing to a cobbler?
But, previous to the assumption of my new habiliments, I was conducted to a long bath, set in a frame of dark wood, and, while looking at it, and wondering at its splendour, I heard so many virtues ascribed to its daily use that I contracted quite a love for it, and vowed to myself that since it
appeared to be a panacea for so many ills, all that scented soap and scrubbing could effect would be gladly tested by me.
I steeped myself that afternoon, as though I would wash out the stains ugly poverty and misery had impressed upon my person since infancy; and, when I emerged out of the bath, my self-esteem was as great as befitted the name and character I was hereafter to assume.
But there was much to improve inwardly as well as outwardly.
The odium attached to the old name, and its dolorous history, as it affected my sense of it, could not be removed by water, but by diligent application to a moral renovation, and making use of the new life, with the serious intent to hold the highest ideal I knew of, as my exemplar.
To aid me in my endeavours, my new father was gentleness itself.
At first, he made no great demand on me; but our intercourse was permitted to grow to that familiar intimacy which inspired perfect confidence.
There was no fear that I could ever be contemptuous or disrespectful; but, had he not allowed a certain time for familiarising me with his presence and position towards me, I might not have been able to overcome a natural timidity which would have ill-suited our connection.
When I had learned to touch him without warning, and yet receive a genial welcome, laugh in his presence unchecked, and even comb his beard with my fingers, then I came completely out of my shell; and, after that, development was rapid.
“Boys should be seen, and not heard,” had been so frequently uttered before me that I had grown abashed at the sound of an adult's voice.
The rule was now agreeably reversed.
I was encouraged to speak upon every occasion, and to utter my opinions regardless of age and sex. No incident occurred, and no subject was mentioned, that I was not invited to say what I thought of it.
Apart from commercial and cognate details, I think my ripening understanding was made more manifest in anything relating to human intercourse and human nature, owing, probably, to the greater efforts made by my father to assist me in recovering lost ground.
Boys bred up at home pick up, instinctively, the ways and manners prevailing there.
I had had no home, and therefore I was singularly deficient in the little graces of home life.
Unconsciously to myself, from the
moment I had stepped out of the bath-room in my new garments, I began that elementary education which was to render me fit to be seen by the side of a respectable man. I had to lose the fear of men and women, to know how to face them without bashfulness or awkwardness, to commune with them without slavish deference, to bear myself without restraint, and to carry myself with the freedom which I saw in others; in a word, I had to learn the art of assimilating the manner, feeling, and expression of those around me. Being attentive and intelligent, acute of hearing, quick of eye-sight, and with a good memory, I had gained immensely in my father's estimation, and he was, to me, a sufficient judge.
Our wanderings from city to city, steamer to steamer, and store to store, which the business of my father necessitated, I do not propose to dwell upon; in fact, it would be impossible to contain within a volume all that I remember of this, and subsequent periods.
I am more concerned with the personal element, the cardinal incidents, and the tracing of my growth to maturity.
Besides, the banks of the Mississippi
and its lower tributaries have little to recommend them to a youngster after the first expressive Oh!
The planters' mansions, the settlements, and cities, are mainly of uniform colour and style of architecture.
When we have seen one mansion, settlement, or city, we seem to have seen all. One river-bank is like the other.
The houses are either of wood with a verandah, and painted, or of red brick; there is a church spire here, and, there, a mass of buildings; but presently, after a second view, there is as little of lasting interest as in the monotonous shores of the great river.
I only record such incidents as affected me, and such as clearly stand out conspicuously in the retrospect, which have been not only a delight to memory, but which I am incapable of forgetting.
During nearly two years, we travelled several times between New Orleans, St. Louis
, and Louisville
; but most of our time was spent on the lower Mississippi
tributaries, and on the shores of the Washita
, and Arkansas Rivers
, as the more profitable commissions were gained in dealings with country merchants between Harrisonburg
, and between Napoleon
and Little Rock
From these business tours I acquired a better geographical knowledge
than any amount of school-teaching would have given me; and at one time I was profound in the statistics relating to population, commerce, and navigation of the Southern
and South-Western States.
Just as Macaulay
was said to be remarkable for being able to know a book from beginning to end by merely turning over its pages, I was considered a prodigy by my father and his intimate friends for the way names and faces clung to my memory.
I could tell the name of every steamer we had passed, the characteristics of her structure, and every type of man we met. A thing viewed, or a subject discussed likely to be useful, became impressed indelibly on the mind.
Probably this mental acquisitiveness was stimulated by the idea that it formed the equipment of a merchant, which I believed it was my ultimate destiny to be; and that every living man should be a living gazetteer, and possess facts and figures at his fingers' ends.
Meantime, my memory was frequently of great use to my father as an auxiliary to his memorandum-book of shipments, purchases, and sales.
Once having seen the page, I could repeat its record with confidence; and I was often rewarded by his admiring exclamation, “Well, I never heard the like!
It is perfectly astonishing how you remember details,” etc. But, though eyes and ears and technical memory were well exercised, it was some time before judgement was formed.
Understanding was slow.
It took long for me to perceive wherein lay the superiority of one sugar over another, or why one grade of flour fetched a higher price than another, or wherein Bourbon whiskey
was superior to rye, and to distinguish the varying merits of coffees, teas, etc. What a man said, or how he looked, his dress, appearance, and so on, were ineffaceable; but the unwritten, or untold, regarding him was a blank to me; and when I heard comments from bystanders upon the nature of some person, I used to wonder how they formed their opinions.
However, the effect of these criticisms upon men and their manners was to inspire me with a desire to penetrate beneath, and to school myself in comparing different people.
I had abundance of opportunities, in the multitudes we met in the crowded steamers, and the many towns we visited; but that which would have given the key to the mystery was wanting, viz., personal intercourse.
In the absence of direct conversation and dealings with people,
it was difficult to discover the nature of a spirit lurking under a fair outside.
When we left New Orleans, at the end of 1859, we had brought with us a portmanteau packed with choice literature, and I was given to understand that the histories of Rome
, and America, poetry and drama, were especially for my use, and that I was to pursue my studies as diligently as at a school.
The practice of travel enabled my father to dispose himself comfortably for the indulgence of reading, within a very short time after reaching his cabin.
He acted as one who had only changed his room, and was only concerned with his own business.
With such a man, a river-voyage was no impediment to instruction.
He set me an example of application to my book, which, added to my own love of study, enabled me to cultivate indifference to what was passing outside of our cabin.
Our travelling library was constantly replenished at the large cities, with essays, memoirs, biographies, and general literature; but novels and romances were rigidly excluded.
He first taught me how a book should be read aloud, and, in a few seconds, had corrected a sing-song intonation which was annoying to him. He said that one could almost tell whether a reader understood his author by the tone of his delivery; and, taking up a Shakespeare, he illustrated it by reading, “Who steals my purse steals trash,” etc.; and the various styles he adopted were well calculated to enforce his lesson.
From the monotone I was unable to see any beauty or point in the quotation; but, when he assumed the tone of the moralist, the lines certainly set me thinking, and the truth of the sentiments appeared so clear that I was never able to forget the quotation.
Sometimes, also, when reading aloud a page of history, I would come to a dull paragraph, and my attention would flag; but he was quick to detect this, and would compel me to begin again, because he was sure that I knew not what I had been reading.
I merely note this because during two years we read together a large number of books; and, as I had the benefit of his disquisitions and comments on my reading, it will be seen that with such a companion these river-voyages considerably advanced my education, as much so, indeed, as
though I had been with a tutor.
Nor, when we dropped our books, and promenaded the deck, was my mind left to stagnate in frivolity.
He took advantage of every object worthy of notice to impress on me some useful, or moral lesson,--to warn me against errors of omission, or commission.
Whatever it may have been in my personal appearance that first attracted him to me, it is certain that the continued affection he always showed towards me was secured by my zealous efforts always to follow his slightest suggestion.
I think it would have been difficult to have found a boy in the neighbourhood of the Mississippi
who observed his parent's wishes with a more scrupulous exactitude than I did those of my adopted father.
As I came to have an entire knowledge of him, I knew not which to admire most, the unvarying, affectionate interest he showed in my personal welfare, or his merits as a man and moral guardian.
Being of original ideas, acute mind, and impressive in speech, the matter of his conversation glued itself into my memory, and stirred me to thought.
I remember well when, one day, he revealed something of the method he proposed to follow with me for the perfecting of my commercial education, I expressed a doubt as to whether, after all his trouble and care, I would ever come up to his expectations.
I said that as to carrying out plain instructions with all good — will there need be no fear — I loved work, and the approbation given to fidelity and industry; but, when I contemplated being left to my own judgement, I felt strong misgivings.
How admirably he interpreted my thoughts, explained my doubts!
He infused me with such confidence that, had a store been given me there and then, I should have instantly accepted its management!
“But,” he said, “ I am not going to part with you yet. You have much to learn.
You are a baby in some things yet, because you have been only a few months in the world.
By the time I have wound up matters, you will have learned thousands of little trifles, and will be so grounded in solid knowledge that you may safely be trusted under another merchant to learn the minutiae of business, and so get ready to keep store with me.”
I suggested to him that I laboured under disadvantages such as hampered very few other boys, which would act as a
clog on the free exercise of my abilities, and that, even if other people refrained from alluding to my Parish breeding, the memory of it would always have a depressing effect on me. But such thoughts he met with something like angry contempt.
“I don't know,” said he, “what the custom of the Welsh people may be, but here
we regard personal character and worth, not pedigree.
With us, people are advanced, not for what their parentage may have been, but for what they are themselves.
All whom I meet in broadcloth have risen through their own efforts, and not because they were their father's children.
was made our chief magistrate because he was himself, and not because of his father, or his ancestors, or because he was poorly or richly brought up. We put a premium on the proper exercise of every faculty, and guarantee to every man full freedom to better himself in any way he chooses, provided always he does not exercise it at the expense of the rights of other people.
It is only those who refuse to avail themselves of their opportunities, and shamefully abuse them, that we condemn.”
At other times, the vehemence of youth would frequently betray itself; and, if I had not been checked, I should probably have developed undue loquacity.
Being of sanguine temper by nature, I was led through gushes of healthy rapture into excesses of speech; but he would turn on me, and gravely say that he was not accustomed to carry magnifiers with him; that, owing to his own sense of proportion, my figures gave him no true idea of the fact I wished to state, that my free use of unnecessary ciphers only created confusion in his mind.
Sometimes he would assume a comical look of incredulity, which brought me to my senses very quickly, and made me retract what I had said, and repeat the statement with a more sacred regard for accuracy.
“Just so,” he would say; “if a thing is worth stating at all, it might as well be stated truly.
A boy's fancy is very warm, I know; but, if once he acquires the habit of multiplying his figures, every fact will soon become no better than a fable.”
Being an early riser himself, he insisted on my cultivating the habit of rising at dawn, but he also sent me to bed at an early hour.
He lost no occasion to urge me to apply the morning hours to study; and, really, his anxiety that I should
snatch the flying minutes appeared to be so great, that I was often infected with it as though they were something tangible, but so elusive that only a firm grasp would avail.
If he saw me idly gazing on the shores, he would recall me, to ask if I had finished some chapter we had been discussing, or if I had found a different answer to his question than I had last given; and, if he detected an inclination in me to listen to the talk of passengers round the bar, he would ask if there were no books in the cabin, that I must needs hanker for the conversation of idlers.
“All the babble of these topers, if boiled down,” he would say, “would not give a drachm of useful knowledge.
Greatness never sprang from such fruitless gossip.
Those men were merely wasting time.
From motives of selfishness, they, no doubt, would be glad to exchange trivial talk with anyone, big or little, who might come near them, but it was not to my interest to be in their company.”
He would put his arm in mine, and lead me away to deliver himself of his thoughts on the glory of youth, painting it in such bright colours that, before long, I would be seized with a new idea of its beauty and value.
It appeared to be only a brief holiday, which ought to be employed for the strengthening of muscles, gathering the flowers of knowledge, and culling the riper fruits of wisdom.
Youth was, really, only the period for gaining strength of bone, to endure the weight put on it by manhood, and for acquiring that largeness of mind necessary to understand the ventures I should hereafter be compelled to take.
To squander it among such fellows as congregated around bar-rooms and liquor-counters was as foolish as to open my veins to let out my life-blood.
“Now is the time to prepare for the long voyage you are to take.
You have seen the ships in the docks taking in their stores before leaving for the high sea where nothing can be bought.
If the captains neglect their duties, the crews will starve.
You are in the dock to-day; have you everything ready for your voyage?
your provisions aboard?
If not, then, when you have hoisted your sails, it will be too late to think of them, and only good-luck can save you from misfortune” ; and so on, until, through his forcible manner, earnestness, and copious similes, I returned to my studies with intense application.
The sight in the steamer saloons of crowds of excited gamblers
was employed by him in exposition of his views on the various ways of acquiring wealth.
Those piles of golden eagles that glittered on the table of the saloon would enrich none of the gamblers permanently.
Money obtained by such methods always melted away.
Wealth was made by industry and economy, and not by gambling or speculating.
To know how to be frugal was the first step towards a fortune, the second was to practice frugality, and the third step was to know what to do with the money saved.
It was every man's duty to put something aside each day, were it only a few cents.
No man in America
was paid such low wages that, if he were determined, he could not put away half of them.
A man's best friend, after God, was himself; and, if he could not rely on himself, he could not rely on anybody else.
His first duty was to himself, as he was bound to his own wants all his life, and must provide for them under every circumstance; if he neglected to provide for his own needs, he would always be unable to do anything towards the need of others.
Then, as his custom was, he would proceed to apply these remarks to my case.
I was to retain in my mind the possibility of being again homeless, and friendless, and adrift in the world, the world keeping itself to itself, and barring the door against me, as it did at Liverpool
, New Orleans, and St. Louis
, “The poor man is hated, even by his own neighbour; but the rich man has many friends,” etc., etc.
An original method of instruction which he practised with me was to present me different circumstances, and ask me what I would do. These were generally difficult cases, wherein honesty, honour, and right-doing, were involved.
No sooner had I answered, than he would press me with another view of it, wherein it appeared that his view was just as fair as the one I had; and he would so perplex me that I would feel quite foolish.
For instance, a fellow-clerk of mine was secretly dishonest, but was attached to me in friendship.
He made free with his employer's till, and one day was discovered by me alone.
What would I do?
I would dissuade him. But supposing, despite his promises to you, he was still continuing to abstract small sums: what then?
I would accuse him of it, and say to him he was a thief.
Supposing that, seeing you could give no positive proof of his theft, he denied it?
he would be a liar, too, and there would be a quarrel.
And what then?
That is all. What of the employer?
In what way?
Is he not in question?
does he not pay you for looking after his interests?
But I do look after his interests, in trying to prevent the theft.
And yet, with all your care of his interests, the pilfering goes on, and nobody knows it but you. You think, then, that I ought to tell on him, and ruin him?
Well, when you engaged with your employer, did you not make something of a bargain with him, that, for a certain wage, you would make his interests your own, and keep him duly informed of all that was going on?
This is one example of the painstaking way in which he would stir up my reasoning powers.
When we walked through the streets, he would call my attention to the faces of the passers-by, and would question me as to what professions or trades they belonged to; and, when I replied that I could not guess them, he would tell me that my eyes were the lamps to my feet, and the guides to my understanding, and would show me that though I might not guess accurately each time, in many instances I might arrive at the truth, and that, whether wrong or right, the attempt to do so was an exercise of the intellect, and would greatly tend, in time, to sharpen my wits.
Moral resistance was a favourite subject with him. He said the practice of it gave vigour to the will, which required it as much as the muscles.
The will required to be strengthened to resist unholy desires and low passions, and was one of the best allies that conscience could have.
Conscience was a good friend, and the more frequently I listened to it, the more ready it was with its good offices.
Conscience was the sense of the soul; and, just as the senses of smell and taste guarded my body from harm or annoyance, it guarded the spirit from evil.
It was very tender and alert now, because I was yet at school and the influence of the Scriptures was strong in me; but, when neglected, it became dull and insensitive.
Those, however, who paid heed to it grew to feel the sensation of its protective presence, and, upon the least suspicion of evil, it strenuously summoned the will to its aid, and thus it was that temptations were resisted.
Whether afloat or ashore, his manners were so open and
genial, that one would think he courted acquaintance.
Many people, led by this, were drawn to accost him; but no man knew better than he, how to relieve himself of undesirable people, and those who enjoyed his company were singularly like himself, in demeanour and conversation.
It is from the character of his associates that I have obtained my most lasting impressions of Americans
, and, whenever mentioned, these are the figures which always rise first in the mental view.
“Punch's” “Jonathan” I have never had the fortune to meet, though one who has travelled through two-thirds of the Union
could scarcely have failed to meet him, if he were a common type.
Among his kind, my adopted father was no mean figure.
I once heard a man speak of him as “a man of a soft heart but a hard head,” which I fancied had a sound of depreciation; but, later, I acknowledged it as just.
It was some six months or so after my adoption that I ventured to broach a subject of more than ordinary interest to me. In fact, it was my only remaining secret from him. It had been often on the tip of my tongue, but I had been restrained from mentioning it through fear of scorn.
My ideas respecting the Deity I suspected were too peculiar to trust them to speech; and yet, if someone did not enlighten me, I should remain long in ignorance of the Divine character.
True, certain coincidences made me secretly believe that God heard me; nevertheless, I burned to know from an authoritative source whether I was the victim of illusions, or whether the Being of my conceptions bore any resemblance to that of the learned and old I had met. I imagined God as a personality with human features, set in the midst of celestial Glory in the Heaven of Heavens; and, whenever I prayed, it was to Him thus framed that I directed my supplications.
My father did not ridicule this idea as I feared he would, and I was much relieved to hear him ask how I had come to form such a fancy.
This was difficult to express in words, but, at last, I managed to explain that, probably, it was from the verse which said that God had made man after His own image, and because clergymen always looked upward when in church.
I cannot give his own words, but this is the substance of my first intelligible lesson on this subject.
God is a spirit, as you have often read.
A spirit is a thing
that cannot be seen with human eyes, because it has no figure or form.
A man consists of body and spirit, or, as we call it, soul.
The material part of him we can see and feel; but that which animates him, and governs his every thought, is invisible.
When a person dies, we say his spirit has fled, or that his soul has departed to its Maker.
The body is then as insensible as clay, and will soon corrupt, and become absorbed by the earth.
We cannot see the air we breathe, nor the strong wind which wrecks ships, and blows houses down, yet we cannot live without air, and the effects of the winds are not disputed.
We cannot see the earth move, and yet it is perpetually whirling through space.
We cannot see that which draws the compass-needle to the Pole; yet we trust our ships to its guidance.
No one saw the cause of that fever which killed so many people in New Orleans last summer, but we know it was in the air around the city.
If you take a pinch of gun-powder and examine it, you cannot see the terrible force that is in it. So it is with the soul of man. While it is in him, you witness his lively emotions, and wonder at his intelligence and energy; but, when it has fled, it leaves behind only an inert and perishable thing, which must be buried quickly.
Well, then, try and imagine the Universe subject to the same invisible but potent Intelligence, in the same way that man is subject to his. It is impossible for your eyes to see the thing itself; but, if you cannot see its effects, you must be blind.
Day after day, year after year, since the beginning, that active and wonderful Intelligence has been keeping light and darkness, sun, moon, stars, and earth, each to their course in perfect order.
Every living being on the earth to-day is a witness to its existence.
The Intelligence that conceived this order and decreed that it should endure, that still sustains it, and will outlast every atom of creation, we describe under the term of God.
It is a short word, but it signifies the Being that fills the Universe, and a portion of whom is in you and me.
Now, what possible figure can you give of that Being that fills so large a space, and is everywhere?
The sun is 95 millions of miles from us; imagine 95 millions of miles on the other side, yet the circle that would embrace those two points is but a small one compared to the whole of space.
However far that
space extends, the mighty Intelligence governs all. You are able to judge for yourself how inconceivable, for the mind of man, God is. The Bible says “As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways.”
God is simply indefinable, except as a spirit, but by that small fraction of Him which is in us, we are able to communicate with Him; for He so ordered it that we might be exalted the more we believe in Him.
“But how, then, am I to pray?”
I asked, as my little mind tried to grasp this enormous space, and recoiled, baffled and helpless.
“Must I only think, or utter the words, without regard to the object or way I direct them?”
It seems to me our Saviour Himself has instructed us. He said, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.”
Prayer is the expression of a wish of the heart, whether you speak aloud, or think it. You are a creature of God, destined to perform His design, be it great or little.
Out of the limits of that design you cannot venture, therefore prayer will not avail you. Within the limits you will be wise to pray, in order that you may be guided aright.
The understanding that He has seen fit to give you is equal to what you are destined to do. You may do it well, or ill; but that is left to your choice.
How wide, or how narrow, those limits are, no one knows but Himself.
Your existence may be compared to this: supposing I give you a sum of money which I know to be enough to take you to New Orleans and return here.
If you spend that money faithfully and properly, it will suffice to bring you comfortably back; but, if you are foolish and waste it by the way, it may not even be enough to take you half-way on your journey.
That is how I look upon our existence.
God has furnished us with the necessary senses for the journey of life He has intended we should take.
If we employ them wisely, they will take us safely to our journey's end; but if, through their perversion, we misuse them, it will be our own fault.
By prayer our spirits communicate with God.
We seek that wisdom, moral strength, courage, and patience to guide and
sustain us on the way. The Father, who has all the time observed us, grants our wish, and the manner of it is past finding out; but the effect is like a feeling of restored health, or a burst of gladness.
It is not necessary to make long or loud prayers: the whisper of a child is heard as well as the shout of a nation.
It is purity of life, and sincerity of heart, that are wanted when you approach the Creator to implore His assistance.
We must first render the service due to Him by our perfect conduct, before we seek favours from Him.
“But what does the verse “So God created him in His own image” mean, then?”
If you still cling to the idea that the human form is a tiny likeness of the Almighty, you are more childish than I believed you to be. “Image,” in the Bible sense, means simply a reflection.
In our souls and intelligence we reflect, in a small way, God's own mightier spirit and intelligence, just as a small pocket mirror reflects the sun and the sky, or your eyes reflect the light.
Having had my doubts satisfied upon these essential points, there was only one thing more which I craved to know, and that was in regard to the Scriptures.
Were they the words of God?
If not, what was the Bible
According to him, the Bible
was the standard of the Christian
faith, a fountain whence we derived our inspiration of piety and goodness, a proof that God interfered in human affairs, and a guide to salvation.
He read from Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works;” and from Paul
he quoted that “it was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort might have hope.”
“You are not,” said he, “to pay too much attention to the set phrases, but to the matter and spirit of what is written, which are for the promotion of virtue and happiness.
Many of the books have been written by men like ourselves, who lived between two thousand and four thousand years ago, and they used words peculiar to their own time.
The mere texts or form of the words they used are not the exact words of God, but are simply the means of conveying the messages breathed
into their understandings; and, naturally, they delivered them in the style of their period, and according to their ability, with such simplicity as would enable the common people to comprehend them.
If I had to convey to you the proclamation of the President
of the United States
, I should have to write it more simply, and in a form that you would understand: so these Divine proclamations have been given to us by His chosen messengers, more faithfully than literally.”
The above are a few of the intelligent ideas which I obtained from my father, and for which I have been as grateful as for his unusual goodness in other respects.
Probably, many a sermon which I had heard had contained them in a diluted form; but they had not been adapted to my understanding, and his clear exposition of these subjects was an immense relief to me. It was a fortunate thing for me that my foggy beliefs, and vague notions, in regard to such high matters, could be laid open with all trust and confidence before one so qualified and tender, before they became too established in my mind, otherwise, as my own intelligence ripened, I might have drifted into atheistical indifference.
The substance of my father's sayings, which I have always remembered, illustrate the bent of his mind.
I carefully copied them into a beautiful memorandum-book of which he made me a present, New Year's Day, 1860, and which I was so proud of that, during the first few days, I had filled more than half of it with the best words of my father.
It must not be supposed that I was at all times deserving of his solicitude, or equal to his expectations.
I was one who could not always do the right and proper thing, for I was often erring and perverse, and at various times must have tried him sorely.
My temper was quick, which, with an excess of false pride, inspired me to the verge of rebellion.
A sense of decency prevented me from any overt act of defiance, but the spirit was not less fierce because I imposed the needful restraint on it. Outwardly, I might be tranquil enough, but my smothered resentment was as wicked and unjustifiable as if I had openly defied him. A choleric disposition on his part would have been as a flame to my nature, and the result might have been guessed.
Happily for me, he was consistently considerate, and declined to notice too closely the flushed face, and the angry
sparkles of the eye, which betokened revolt.
An occasional blood-letting might perhaps have been beneficial to me; but he had discovered other methods, just as efficacious, for reducing me to a state of reason, and never once had recourse to threats.
My fits of sullenness had been probably provoked by an unexpected sharpness of tone, or a denial of some liberty, or graver censure than I thought I deserved.
Constrained to silence by the magnitude and character of my obligations to him, I, of course, magnified my grievances; and, the longer reconciliation was deferred, the larger these seemed.
Before this dangerous mood sought vent, some look, a word, some secret transmission of sympathy occurred, and, in an instant, the evil humour vanished; for weeks afterwards, I would endeavour to atone for my churlish behaviour by a contrite submissiveness which was capable of undergoing any penance.
“I do not punish you,” he said, “because I want you to remember that you are a little man, and the only difference between us is that I am an older man. If I were in the habit of striking you, you would run away from me, or it would be noticeable in you by a slinking gait, or a sly eye, or a sullen disposition, or a defiant look, or you would become broken-spirited; all this I do not want you to be — I wish for your filial regard, and your respect, which I would not deserve if I terrified.
Misery and suffering would wreck your temper, while kindness and reason will bring out the best qualities of your nature; for you, as well as every child that is born, possess something that is good, and it is the sunshine of tenderness that makes it grow.”
To one who considers that neither the closest ties of relationship, nor the highest claims of affection, are sufficient to preserve the rebellious spirit in an angelic temper for a long time, this boyish inconsistency and perverseness will be no surprise; but I was sensible that it was only owing to his patience that it did not receive the condign punishment it deserved.
This, in itself, was an education; for I learned, after several experiences, not to disturb myself too seriously because of a temporary change in his manner or mood, and to accept it rather as being due to some cross in business, or physical condition, than to any offence in me, and so the customary cordiality was soon restored.
If I could only have made similar allowances earlier, and with other persons in later life, I should have had much less unhappiness to bewail; but, in his case, the necessity of doing so was impressed on me by my intimate knowledge of his fatherliness, and affectionate considerateness, and by the constant sense that I owed him unreserved submission.