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• Virtutem primam esse puto compescere linguam :
It may be remembered by those readers who have taken an interest in the details of Helen's early career that she had still a brother, a boy who was yet a small child when she left her father's house. On the occasion of the Doctor's decease, his remaining children met together, and then the one who had so long been a stranger to them was received by that young brother kindly and lovingly; for he was hardly old enough to comprehend the full measure of the disgrace she had brought upon their house; and was moreover more drawn to the unreserved and warm-hearted sister of whom he had seen and known so little, than to the matter-of-fact and undemonstrative wife of the now prosperous attorney.
Roger Langton had been (what is called) articled to a merchant in Liverpool, and, as some of his brother clerks, with the taste for original wit characteristic of their class, were wont chaffingly to remark, an uncommon nice article he was. Unfortunately, the boy was able to obtain in the great commercial city some of that baneful thing called “credit,' and being (like his unhappy sister) but ill provided with a store of good principles wherewith to enable him to resist the assaults of temptation, he speedily found himself advancing towards that 'Slough of Despond’ called Debt. Some little time elasped ere he was engulfed in the abyss ; and just over his shoes, and shiver. ing in the mud of that dirty slime, was the thoughtless boy, when looking round him for relief and succour, he penned his first request for money to his sister Helen. It was but the loan of a few pounds; but he blushed as he scribbled down the words; and after he had despatched his letter, well nigh wished that it had not gone.
In due time the answer with its flimsy enclosure arrived ; and in his delight at receiving it, Roger forgot his scruples and his regrets. On the next occasion, when creditors pressed him for the payment of their 'small accounts,' he was more bold, for he was up to his knees in mire then, and could not afford to waste time in hesitation. The appeal that he made for assistance was an urgent one; the letter too was full of regrets and promises of amendment; but the amount of the sum required startled his sister.
She had no fears as regarded the providing for her own future necessities; nor was money in itself a thing of value to her; for that root of evil (which is said to be the deepest growing and most noxious of all) had no place in the soil where so many dangerous weeds as well as precious flowers had grown and flourished. But she did shudder at the perils that lay so thickly in her young brother's path ; knowing (for she had bought her experience wholesale) how strong is the force of habit, and how vain is the attempt to restrain the headlong pace, when once the wild passions of youth have broken from the restraining curb. She trembled too for the results that follow from the lowering effect on the character of a long-borne burthen of debt. The mark which the galling chain has made remains. It is not perhaps pleasant (at least in the early stages of a young lad's career of dissipation, and before his conscience has become seared and his feelings of honest independence blighted) to live upon the money of others, to wear their clothes, and to adorn himself with the trinkets of those by whom the vain and silly boy has been so foolishly trusted. But the sensation (annoying at first) soon wears off, and a debt of dishonour gradually ceases to be a burthen on his conscience.
Helen, thinking on these things, could only give her money, and grieve over her inability to do more. She could only stand on the shore, and watch with anxious eyes the little barque (with its freight of one precious soul), trembling as it rose and fell, tossed on the wild waves of life's tempestuous sea. She was painfully impressed with the conviction, that by her own misconduct she had forfeited her elder sister's right to offer counsel; and therefore she seldom ventured to remonstrate with the selfish and unthinking lad who was now beginning to prey ruthlessly on her slender means; for Roger was over head and ears in the slough now. He had grown reckless and unscrupulous, and would have taken anything from anybody, except advice.
It will readily be believed, that when she had been for some four years a schoolmistress, there remained to Helen (by reason of this constant demand on her small resources), but very little of the money bequeathed to her by her father. By far the greater portion of that bequest had passed into Roger's hands;