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Decision Of Character

( Originally Published 1851 )



You may recollect the mention, in one of out-. conversations, of a young man who wasted in two or three years a large patrimony, in profligate revels with a number of worthless associates calling them-selves his friends, till his means were exhausted, when they of course treated him with neglect or contempt. Reduced to absolute want, he one day went out of the house with an intention to put an end to his life; but wandering awhile almost unconsciously, he came to the brow of an eminence which overlooked what were lately his estates. Here he sat down, and remained fixed in thought a number of hours, at the end of which he sprang from the ground with a vehement exulting emotion. He had formed his resolution, which was, that all these estates should be his again; he had formed his plan too, which he instantly began to execute. He walked hastily forward, determined to seize the very first opportunity, of however humble a kind, to gain any money, though it were ever so despicable a trifle, and resolved absolutely not to spend, if he could help it, a farthing of whatever he might obtain. The first thing that drew his attention was a heap of coals shot out of carts on the pavement before a house. He offered himself to shovel or wheel them into the place where they were to be laid, and was employed. Ile received a few pence for the labor; and then, in pursuance of the saving part of his plan, requested some small gratuity of meat and drink, which was given him. He then looked out for the next thing that might chance to offer; and went with indefatigable industry through a succession of servile employments, of longer or shorter duration, still scrupulously avoiding, as far as possible, the expense of a penny. He promptly seized every opportunity which could advance his design, without regarding the meanness of occupation or appearance. By this method he had gained, after a considerable time, money enough to purchase, in order to sell again, a few cattle, of which he had taken pains to understand the value. 11e speedily but cautiously turned his first gains into second advantages; retained without a single deviation his extreme parsimony ; and thus advanced by degrees into larger transactions and incipient wealth. I did not hear, or have forgotten, the continued course of his life: but the final result was, that he more than recovered his lost possessions, and died an inveterate miser, worth 60,000.

I have always recollected this as a signal instance, though in an unfortunate and ignoble direction, of decisive character, and of the extraordinary effect, which, according to general laws, belongs to the strongest form of such a character. (Foster's Essays.)

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