Page images
PDF
EPUB

CONFESSIONS OF A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING.

Ir distressed me the other day — for to think I could write; but I have n't I have my feelings — to think of myself enough intellect left for even a moral , as a being quite useless to his fellow- tale. Having neither means nor influcreatures. This was a novel view of my ence, (ha! ha!) it's of no particular case. It had been the same for ten or use to feel benevolent. I do n't know fifteen years, I suppose, but I'd never any body who has committed a crime. thought of it before. For that matter, I can't set a good example. Nor a bad I'd never thought of any thing ten one. Now and then there are those minutes together.

who will take the will for the deed, It is said we benefit some one by even should they chance to know you; but I our extravagance. The remark does not find no consolation in that. The world apply to me. I live in an attic, and this is my creditor. is the fifth year I've worn my only coat. Were it not that the thought of work Extravagance!

dismays me, I would pursue the only They say, too, one's cheerful face and feasible idea that has struck me, namekindly glance do good. Perhaps, when ly, giving some account of myself

. It they're seen. As for me, I sleep, or might afford a little amusement --- perdream with my eyes open, most of the haps a lesson. daytime, and try the air only at night, But it is not the work alone that staglike a bat. Besides, were I to go out gers me. To tell the truth, I'm a trifle by daylight, I fancy people would not be sensitive. Pshaw! how absurd! No; particularly struck with my cheerful. I'm only lazy. Well, I can stop when ness; and as for my glance, why, I I like ; so I'll begin, at any rate, and never glance at any body. I have n't trust to my stars — whose friendship, even looked at myself these three years. however, as it strikes me, has been My glass was long ago shoved up a con- rather equivocal — for ways and means duit so narrow I could n't follow it if I to wriggle through. would. I have forgotten 'what manner I can think of nothing better to begin of man' I was. Who cares ?

with - because it is true and characterThen we're told we're a source of istic — than the fact that I never take happiness to our friends and relations, an interest in any thing. I never did. who can't but think of us with pleas- There is but one thing I would cross ure. Very likely, if one has 'em. As the street to see; and that is, the man to friends, show me one. Relations - (should he really exist) who surpasses they've disowned me.

me in indolence. He would be a sight. No; you may depend, I've been the I do n't see how he could surpass me, veriest Good-for-nothing in the world. and live. I am now. On the whole, I'm a dismal I picked up a newspaper the other failure, and should never have been day – it was a daily, but I forget born.

which -- and went through a column I have said the discovery pained me. or two. It was very dreary. SomeI may truthfully add I wished — for thing mean about something else still I'm not really selfish -- I could (in meaner seemed to be the essence of it. some easy way) at last atone for such I learned that one or two other journals great indifference to my kind by doing were quite upreliable. A great man it a service. I still indulge this amiable was censured. A small one was galwhim. But the question that bothers vanized. There had been a skirmish me is, What on earth can I do? I used somewhere. A great ram or something was building, or to be launched, or pose, and have nothing particular in something. Some people had got blown 'em — though this is n't so clear at the up somewhere, and some houses blown time; besides, I see a great many dim down somewhere else. A great battle outlines of things, with now and then a was imminent --- but a great battle al- ghost, and other visions not over-welways is imminent. Some clergymen come.

It would have killed some peohad been talking to the President. ple. I sometimes wake with the queer Glad I was n't the President. Napoleon notion that malicious spirits have been had some designs, as usual, etc., etc. It meddling with me: drugging my dreams, was curiously uninteresting. I lit my as it were. What am I saying? Well, pipe with a piece of it.

no matter. (A fortnight later.) Having at times Pshaw! I'm in no mood for writing, been made exceedingly uncomfortable to-night. with thoughts of this enterprise, I sup- (A few days later.) Like an old man, pose I must go on with it. I have prom- (I say, like an old man, for I'm but ised myself a deal of rest so soon as the forty-five) I can now and then rememjob shall be fairly off my hands. I'm in ber things that happened a good while hopes it will be some time this year. ago; and they're generally of no parHow I ever brought myself to begin ticular consequence, when I do remem. will henceforth be a perpetual marvel. ber 'em. Of course I would n't say But, once begun, autobiographic efforts this of my father, whom I chance to are very apt to continue, as many à recollect exceeding well, for me; for modest and lazy writer can attest. I the governor was 'werry good to me,' feel I shall finish. Presently, it will be as little Bob or Bill — no, Joe — says in easier to go on than stop ; and all may that capital story of Dickens's — whatjudge what is likely to result, in that d'ye-call-it? — Bleak House. Men who

knew my father know where my characI sometimes wonder whether I have a ter comes from. I do n't remember all mind. I'm sure the ridiculous affair I about him now, of course, but I know call mine is of no great use to me. he was very slow, and he groaned a * The mind,' says old Abercrombie deal over his arduous duties. For years and I can't recall another sentence of I was n't sure he had any, as he was his book — 'is that part of our being around the house most of the time. I which thinks and wills, remembers and recollect he called his business some reasons.' According to this definition, custom-house affair — collector, or inI've no mind whatever, most of the spector, or surveyor, or the like. For time, for I do n't half do any one of the that matter, it may have been weighing, four.

or gauging, or something of that sort. Well, what do you do?'

All I know is, if he weighed, he gauged Nothing. I only imagine things. I his abilities so 'meanly they did n't half dream and ruminate. I sleep. A good balance the labor; and if he gauged, part of the time I rub my eyes and why, he weighed too much (two hundred seem to be getting awake. I yawn. and over) to be happy at it. Once in a while, when I feel vigorous, I Out of curiosity — or rather, I think, stretch.

friendship-I once went down and spent I'm bothered a good deal with what what he called a day' with him at his they call obfuscations or something - a office.' We were almost half a day peculiarity of mental vision which ena- getting there, for I would pit my father bles one to see what does n't exist. This against the next man for walking slow. is all very well, provided one has a taste We had to go up one or two pairs of for it. I get strange notions, which stairs. On the first landing, he stopped, spring up in my muddled brains, I sup- out of breath; and waiting for me to

case.

come up -- for I was always behind my lay down on the bench, on my back, father — said, with much pathos, "These and went to sleep. When I awoke, stairs will be the death of me yet!' they were all smoking and reading still; Time eventually carried out his predic- and presently the governor looked at the tion; and I remember it gave six men a clock and said it was time to go home. job to carry him out. The 'office' was So we went, and found that labor gives an uncommonly nice place --- what I one a good appetite for dinner. could see of it through a haze of to- I do n't suppose my father got more bacco-smoke ; it had a ceiling so low my than ten or fifteen hundred dollars a father could have touched it with his year for these services. Certainly he hand, and was not much bigger than a was ill paid. He complained a deal of bed-room. A rusty old stove, well-lac- hard work and those stairs, and finally quered with tobacco-juice, stood in the died of them, as I before remarked. I midst, the floor around it being strewn think of him now as a custom-house with saw-dust, 'old soldiers,' and ex- martyr. hausted quids, while several well-whit- I was but a lad when my widowed tled chairs and desks completed the mother - one of the best and tallest imposing ensemble. The above is about women that ever lived - gathered to the only picture that 'memory's walls' gether me and the household effects -can boast, at this date.

no great job — and went straight to my *Mornin', Ned; mornin', Bill,' said uncle's, in Massachusetts. This gentlemy father to a couple of co-worthies man, much to my concern, was unpleaswho sat with their feet on the stove, antly blue in his religious tenets, and smoking clay pipes and reading news- mightily methodical in practice. Every papers.

thing was done by rule, on his premises; Mornin', chum,' said both together. and there were so very many things to

'Any thing laid out for this mornin' ?' do, the same day after day, a fellow who inquired my father.

naturally hated monotony ran much risk No,' answered they, and went on of getting disgusted. It is my opinion reading. Upon which, the governor that had my uncle ever chanced -- after went to a desk and unlocked it. There reaching the age of twenty or therewas nothing in it, that I could see, but abouts - to feel the throbbings of a a pack of cards and a checker-board spontaneous emotion, he would then with some leathern men on it, the cards and there incontinently have died of and the men looking rather greasy. He self-abomination. took out a pipe - which showed that Never was so tired in my life, the desk was better furnished than I had (Tuesday of the following week.) I supposed and also a paper of tobacco, ám now, I think, completely rested from (odd I should remember these things !) the fatigue of my last effort. I have befrom which he loaded his pipe, and got come so filled with pride, surveying my to smoking directly. Then he borrowed novel achievement, that complacency a paper from Ned, and drawing up a has gradually warmed into ambition, chair, elevated his feet to a level with and I am resolved to go a great way tothose of his compeers, and went to wards the conclusion of my sketch, this reading with great deliberation, appar- very day. ently quite forgetting the loneliness of My exemplary uncle was hardly prebis descendant. I sauntered to the win- pared, I should think, for the figure I dow, which was so dirty I could scarce- cut on the farm. Getting up with the ly recognize familiar objects through it, lark was a new letter in my alphabet. saw some ships, got my hands into some However, it was one of the branches grease, which I wiped off on my hair, taught in his institute, and I had to and presently, becoming quite fatigued, learn it. And I did not get up for the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

purpose of being idle all day - trust a number of ingeniously worded hygienic my uncle for that! So I slaved along, maxims. regular on compulsion, and active under The ledge of breakfast passed, I sank a kind of unconscious protest; until the to so profound a deep of Sabbath deold martinet, growing older and more gradation that even my habit of going indulgent- or perhaps I should say, to meeting seemed to be threatened. At blinder and more feeble --- rather re- thoughts of discontinuing this elegant laxed the bonds of his discipline, and I, diversion, I own I had at first some true to my original nature, followed up weak misgivings; for the custom was, the lessening pressure like a patient but I may say, universal, and was deemed alert steel spring, that does n't wait to the corner-stone of respectability. To be told.

be given up by one's friends, and sorI felt it was wrong to yield to this vis rowfully handed over to the Devil — of inertiæ, so persistently opposed to laud- whom the various ministers I had sat able effort ; and but for one thing, per- under had helped me to form no very haps I should now be accounted a favorable opinion – was certainly a fate moderately decent, respectable man, to which I had no mind. with money in the bank. I allude to Ah! had it been a question between the very general custom of lying abed me and Morpheus only, I do not doubt of a Sunday morning. To this I think that, lazy as I was, I should have conI may justly ascribe my ruin. For quered. So far from it, lying awake after all, custom so overlies and repress- was what I found so fascinating. Not es nature, that had the hour for rising yet disturbed by the bustle of rising, been exactly the same for all the days of and having my spiritual part at its best the week, summer and winter, one might estate, now that breakfast no more thrust at last be thought to have established a its material obstruction into the current, habit strong enough to withstand the I naturally and willingly became the encroachments of the most perverse ten- captive of that too gentle mistress, Rev. dencies. But what could have more erie. satisfactorily proved the universal dispo- I maintain I also did, at first, some sition of the race, and thus borne me decent thinking, in those matutinal out in the indulgence of my own, than idlings, and now and then lit upon this habit, which was a regular sneer at ideas and fancies that ought to have regularity, and a flattering concession to gone into books. I confess, however, the errant pretensions of genuine na- I spent much time in a profitless way, ture? It made me grateful to the com- as business goes — lying, with eyes half munity, though it lessened my respect, closed, and wandering in fancy in that to find myself so handsomely indorsed. limitless land which stretches between And I availed myself, as may be sup- light and darkness — holding intimate posed, to the utmost, of my inestimable relations with things immaterial, and privilege.

surveying such shapes and scenes as The longer I lay, of a Sunday morn- these material eyes must despair of uting, the longer I wished to lie. From terly. Then, perhaps, some sudden rising barely in time for breakfast, I at sound would bring me from those forlength retrograded, unreproved, to the eign parts, the glow of whose beauties point of sitting down at a deserted ta- would for a moment gild the commoner ble; thence, to finding the meal colder things of earth, and then steal away to, and colder ; so that it was not many its own bright realm, as though it months ere I began to fail of finding it shrank from their touch or was afraid. at all, spite of several friendly warnings Why, really! I am getting eloquent. and remonstrances, and the ventilating No wonder I look back fondly to that

period. It deserves all I can say of it - overthrow. Yes, I was a hero many speaking by contrast. All happiness, weeks- a hero laurelless, but still of they say, is comparative. Mine, on the true stuff. But I grew steadily those serene and heavenly Sunday weaker, my enemy at the same rate mornings, seemed superlative. Simply more dreadfully powerful. I saw not to be let alone, while I petted those the glory of my achievements. The sweet fancies and gave my soul the old Sunday morning programme began airing it had pined for through the to repeat itself - stealthily, insinuatingweek, was bliss enough. What won- ly—and the black looks, and more sig. der that the time should have come nificant warnings, reproofs, lectures, when even the voice of the church- threatenings, these too came in their going bell' fell far behind the music of turn, each temporarily efficacious, but my dreams! I had a trifle of taste, all failing of real permanent virtue. but no piety to speak of; the former Well, let the truth come out. It made me wretched over the dulness of would tell itself, were you to look at me. the preacher and the stupidity of the I went down at that fatal rate, Respectchoir, while the lamentable lack of the ability and Decency soon looked like the latter deprived my case of any hopeful sun and moon, far above me and unat. features. Just as it had been with tainable. I fairly earned the title I have breakfast — first I went in a little late; given myself at the head of my sketch. then a little later ; then, pricked for. All seemed to think I had a right to it, ward by conscience, I appeared bright if any body. and early; then, having done so admir- My mother worried, of course. I was ably, I felt encouraged to lie in bed till sorry on her account, (she being a toletwelve, and let the returning family find rably proud item of mortality,) and dare me in an easy-chair, (we had one, origi- say I should have been infinitely worse, nally designed for an invalid, since de. but for remembering her. ceased) reverently perusing the BIBLE, An incident of that period has just reand also complaining of rheumatism. called itself. The rheumatism was in my will, but I One winter's morning, a day or two said it was in my legs. This complaint after a fall of snow, I was awakened by bung around me a good while, proving the sound of innumerable sleigh-bells, conveniently periodical, and readily sim- which made me think the whole town ulated, to the conviction of the most sus- mad with the opportunity of a genuine picious. And when my really honest frolic. A pang that instant went to my nature at length impelled me to come heart, for my habits and I were thrown out in my true colors, people had grown into high relief by the phenomenon, so used to the idea of missing me from which spoke so pointedly of enjoyment, meeting, (and I had never joined' and health, and spirits. become a 'professor,') I heard very little Presently I made the soothing discovon the subject of 'backsliding,' though ery that what I had heard was after all ‘laziness' was a theme I began to ob- but the vociferous prattling of a teaserre was rather more frequently dis- kettle, whose ante-breakfast music came cussed in my presence than formerly. up to me from below through a 'stove

Will any one be surprised that the pipe hole in the floor with an effect sins of Sunday should at length have marvellously like that of sleigh-bells in been visited on the head of Monday – the distance. poor punctual offspring of a wretched A commoner youth of my order would parent ? Believe me when I say I was only have smiled at this, and turned long in yielding to the charmer; you over for a new nap; as for me, I rose, may then (if you can) exult in my final dressed myself, and thrust my appari

« PreviousContinue »