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For the Analectic Magasine.
SOME years ago I became acquainted with a person of the name of Walbridge, whose appearance and deportment interested me in a singular degree. He seemed then about eight and thirty, , slender, and genteelly formed; not handsome, but possessing in a remarkable degree that charm which makes a person interesting. Though he never complained, but, on the contrary, supported beyond any person I ever knew, an equanimity of temper, yet to those who observed him with attention, it was evident that he laboured under the recollection of some bitter calamity. Every feature of his expressive face bore testimony that it had at no distant period been wrung with anguish. He might be said to resemble some fertile region of Sicily a long while ago laid waste by an earthquake, and whose smiling aspect, though in some measure restored by time, still everywhere bears traces of the ravages it once sustained.
His was a painful countenance, as was once ola served, and the phrase expressed its character completely.
In the circle which Walbridge frequented, he excited much of that interest which we feel, we know not why for some persons, and was highly esteemed, though he took little pains to gain the good will of any one. He evidently possessed acute feelings, but made little parade of them; on the contrary, when on any occasion they were assailed, he seemed to task his mind to subdue, or, at least, disguise them. Though in a few instances I remember to have seen him enter with spirit into the discussion of common topics, yet, in general, he seldom exerted his powers but on subjects of deeper and more permanent interest. Then his severe and manly style of speaking, his force of thought, bis mingled feeling, and philosophic indifference, together with the strong and earnest expression of his face, gave an indescribable character to every thing he uttered.
If ever on any occasion he appeared devoid of feeling, it was when called upon to sympathize in the common evils of life. Loss
of fortune, disappointed avarice, baffled ambition, or speculation ending in poverty, were subjects which he listened to as idle tales, and often would be ridicule with bitter irony the whinings of those who complained of these everyday distresscs of life. Such things, he said, were the daily bread of all mankind, and none but querulous, weak-minded beings ever complained of what was the common lot of the whole human race. But there were other evils which he seemed to feel with redoubled force. The wounds of affection, the sorrows of the heart, and, above all, the loss of friends, never failed to call forth his pity and commiseration. Fortune could restore what she had taken away; avarice deserved to pine ; 'ambition might begin the world again ; and time reconciled us to the ills of poverty :--but who, he would ask, ever wrestled successfully with a broken heart, or what time ever reconciled us to the loss of those we loved ?
I confess on these occasions I used to suspect that Walbridge wanted that practical benevolence which is worth all the speculative sensibility in the world, and does more to alleviate the distresses of society than all the fine-spun effusions of sentiment, or precepts of philosophy, ever written. It was not long, however, before I accidentally discovered that he was in the practice of relieving the wants of those very persons whose common calamities he considered as almost nothing; and that while he despised their complaints, he administered to the misfortunes that occasioned them.
These seeming inconsistencies only excited my vigilance to detect the latent features of his character, and I scrutinized him with an attention which every day's experience seemed to convince me was thrown away. All that resulted from the most minute observation was, that his character was not to be developed except by some accidental indiscretion, which was hardly to be looked for, considering the strong rein he seemed to hold on his feelings.
Such as he was, however, Walbridge gained the regard of all those with whom he associated for any length of time; and, though neither gay or talkative, his company was always welcome to those who were ; for his silence was not gloomy, or his seriousness morose. His eye, and his smile, told you that though he did not join in the gayety, he partook of that cheerfulness to which he could not contribute.
It happened that a persona lady-who enjoyed a large por tion of his esteem, sustained a severe domestic calamity, which, acting on a mind of acute feeling, plunged her into the deepest sorrow. Some time after, we called to see her, and the sight of old friends seemed to give a keener edge to her grief. Walbridge attempted to console her; for a humane heart cannot resist the attempt at consolation, even though assured it will be in vain He urged a variety of arguments—but grief neither reasons, nor listens to reason. With that injustice which often accompanies acute sorrow, she reproachfully told him that it was easy to find topics of consolation for evils we never suffered, and could not conceive. Mr. Walbridge was a philosopher, and philosophers prided themselves in being insensible to the ills of life, and of their friends.
This reproach went to his heart-he paced the room in silent solemnity-his face assumed the saddest expression of sorrow, and as he stopped and leaned against the mantle-piece, he seemed to be labouring to bring his mind to some painful resolution. He at length seated himself again, and said in a tone of bitter despondency, mingled with slight reproach, “ You have charged me with indifference to the misfortunes of mankind - you have accused me of being unfeeling because I have never been stricken myself. I thought to have gone to the grave in silence, and carried with me every memorial of the calamities that have fallen on my head. That no one has ever yet heard me complain, is no proof that I have never suffered, and if I do not sympathize with the common ills of life, it is because every body seems to me to be happier than I am. I will tell you my story. Perhaps the detail of what I have suffered may in some measure serve to reconcile you to the event which you mourn. At any rate you may contrast your situation with mine, and see how happy you ought to be compared with myself. If I am unfeeling learn in what a bitter school I became so.
“My father, a foreigner, left his country before I can remember, and brought with him a wife and three children, two sisters and myself. His story I could never learn, but from some hints which he occasionally dropped, I suspect that he had been ill treated by his family, with whom he never kept up any correspondence. What his misfortunes had been I know not, but their
efects appeared in the choice of his residence, which was on the banks of a little river that falls into the Ohio. Men like my father seldom quit society, unless society has injured or been injured by them, and the uniform tenor of my father's life forbade the latter supposition.
« At the time of our first settlement this region was a perfect wilderness. We were more than fourteen miles distant from any human habitation, and the solitude of our world was never interrupted by the passing traveller. The only sounds of breathing life, other than from ourselves, were those of the inhabitants of the woods. We heard the solitary woodpecker striking the trees with his bill—the bluejay chanting his lonely notes the squirrel chirping, the partridge drumming-sounds that would be lost to the ears in the cultivated resorts of men, but which in the silence of the interminable forest are heard afar off. In the stillness of the midnight we were visited by troops of wolves, whose howlings, and the responsive challenges of our watch dogs, produced an effect singularly wild and sublime.
« In this lonely situation we seemed to live for ourselves alone; all our duties and feelings were concentrated in each other. We sometimes heard a rumour of the world over the hills and far away;' but it seemed like the story of some distant country, with which we were never to have any intercourse, and the inhabitants of which we should never see. Here my father employed himself in overlooking the work of a few labourers who had been tempted to accompany us, in study, and in the education of his children. In a few years our little settlement furnished us with all the necessaries of life, and my father, as he saw the wilderness begin to blossom like the rose, and contemplated the smiling pros. pect of rich meadows, waving fields of grain, and cattle reposing under the shade of those primeval elms which he had left standing on the borders of the stream, seemed for a while to forget his birthplace, and to be almost happy.
“ For my part, I grew up like a young Indian, active, wild, and impetuous. In the intervals of study, I passed my time in rambling with a gun, building castles, or fishing along the river, which was so clear and pure, that the smallest objects were visible at the bottom. Occasionally I would extend my rambles down VOL. III, New Series.
the stream to its junction with the Ohio; that beautiful river, though yet unsung, more enchanting than any ever yet celebrated in song. My fancy, which had run wild in the solitudes of the Woods, sometimes pushed on to future times, and I used to anticipate the period when this delightful region, already adorned with every thing enchanting in nature, should be embellished by all that is elegant in art, or valuable in science; and when its graces fully meandering stream should become classic, like those which the Scotish ploughman has made immortal. But I wander, and, indeed, I shrink from the task I have undertaken, and would willingly defer, as long as possible, the relation of that sad catastrophe which laid the fabric of my happiness in everlasting ruin.
“ We were a family of love; how we loved each other, those only who have lived as we lived can imagine. In the crowded resorts of mankind, the affections are frittered away in the pursuit of numerous and distracting objects, which divert the attention from dwelling long on one idea. Hundreds of people lay claim to detached portions of our hearts, each sharing a little, while the multiplicity of ever varying scenes that pass before our eyes prevents our receiving those impressions that are indelible. But in retirement it is different; the scarcity of objects of interest gives a force and energy to the estimation we bear them: the heart fastens there with a strength and permanency inconceivable by those who pursue the shifting varieties of the busy world; and where these deep-rooted attachments are torn away, nothing but regret and despair will ever thrive again.
“ At the age of eighteen I was sent to one of the universities, to complete such branches of my education as our remote situation prevented me from attending to with advantage. My parting from home was the first sorrow I ever felt; and those who can recollect the first wound in their hearts may form some idea of my feelings. My family too felt it bitterly. The loss or the absence of one person from a little family of love, is a serious affair to those whose enjoyments centre at home.
“How I bufreted this untried scene; how I was laughed at for my simplicity, ridiculed for my bashfulness, and what boyish tricks were played upon my inexperience, it is unnecessary to detail; altogether they sickened me of my situation, and prevented my forming any connexions that might have drawn me a moment