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When I entered the room, I found her reclining on a sofa, and in tears, her three daughters weeping apart. Though I knew not the cause of their distress, I felt at once that some great calamity had befallen them. My presence seemed to revive their grief, for when they beheld me, there was a spontaneous burst of anguish. At length, when nature had given vent to her feelings, and recovered a portion of that strength which had been consumed by the violence of grief, the sufferer informed me that her son had brought upon them a deluge of sorrow. Without going into particulars, she requested me to read the following letter, which was lying on the table:–
“MY DEAR MoTHER,-Apprehensive that you may be alarmed by the abruptness of my departure from home, I write to inform you that I am well; and when I reach the place of my destination, I will send you my address. I now regret the course I have taken, but this will not bring back my departed reputation, nor heal the wound which I have inflicted on your peace... Had I taken your advice, and kept myself from evil companions and vain amusements, I had still been a virtuous and happy man—your comforter, and the support of the family; but I disregarded your lessons, and became a regular attender of the theatre, to the fatal attractions of which, I am convinced, I now owe my ruin. From the theatre, it was but one step to the tavern and the gaming table. To gratify my passion for the latter, I embezzled my masters' property, and am now a wretched fugitive from the pursuit of justice. Remember me very kindly to my sisters, and tell them never to enter a theatre, for it is to my attendance at that place of dissipation, that I attribute my first deviation from the right path.-Your undutiful, yet affectionate son, W. HARVEY.”
“Oh! my poor William,” exclaimed his mother, “oh! that I should ever have lived to see this day! Our disgrace is all over the town this morning. Look at this, too,” she continued, producing a hand-bill offering a reward of £50 for the apprehension of William Harvey, absconded.
After perusing these, I expressed my heartfelt sympathy with the family, and tried to soothe their feelings and offer words of comfort; but what comfort could I impart in such circumstances ! In answer to my inquiries, I drew from her, amidst sobs and tears, an account of her son, and the causes which had produced the fatal transformation in his character. It was to the following effect:-At the decease of his father, he was removed from school, and placed in the counting-house of Messrs. , extensive merchants in the town. Being a lad of strong natural powers and quick perceptions, active and industrious in his disposition, he soon made himself very useful, and within the space of three years, had so established himself in the esteem and respect of his employers, as to be promoted to a post of responsibility and trust. He was distinguished from most young
men of his age, by the soundness of his judgment, and the sobriety of his habits, and so devotedly attached to his mother and his sisters, that he made the promotion of their happiness his constant study. In the morning he went to the duties of his station with cheerfulness; and in the evening, when the toils of the day were ended, he either retired to his own room, to read the amusing or instructive page, or passed it away in their society. He would often admit, when conversing with his pious mother, the necessity of personal religion, yet he thought some distant futurity a more convenient season for attending to it than the present time; and hence the strong impressions which he occasionally received, when engaged in the public exercises of devotion, were soon obliterated by the tumultuous anxieties of commercial life. But when about the age of eighteen, he began to feel the necessity of personal religion; and though he did not suffer its interesting and important inquiries to divert his attention from his secular pursuits, yet he was convinced that it was no less his duty to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” than diligent in his business. His mother witnessed this moral renovation of his character with peculiar delight; and soon had the pleasure of hearing him lead the devotions of the family both morning and evening. For the space of two years, he was equally distinguished for his diligence in business and his fervour of devotion, till at length he fell into the company of a young man who ultimately effected his ruin. This young man was the son of a wealthy citizen, as accomplished in manners as he was corrupt in principles; and though he made no profession of religion, yet he affected to treat it with great respect, and thus more effectually gained an ascendency over young Harvey. Their first acquaintance soon ripened into the maturity of an ardent friendship; and notwithstanding the dissimilarity of their opinions, they became almost inseparable companions. Each felt anxious to gain the other over to his own course, and adopted what he conceived to be the most likely method; but it soon became apparent, that evil communications more speedily corrupt the virtuous, than good communications reclaim the vicious. One of the earliest symptoms of this corruption of principle, was his becoming an occasional frequenter of the theatre, a place which, hitherto, the pious admonitions of his mother had prevented him from entering. Then came abandonment of his home, and of the society of its inmates, after the business of the day had terminated, which broke in upon the devotional order of the family, and often led to inquiries and remonstrances which were natural, but painful. These gentle and affectionate remonstrances at first had a powerful effect, and he was induced to return to his former habits; but in process of time, they were either heard with indifference, or resented, and he who had officiated at the family altar, in a humble and apparently contrite spirit, informed his mother that he should in future decline engaging in such a responsible office. She besought him in the most urgent and imploring manner, to rescind his avowed determination, and once more break away from that fatal charm, which was seducing him from the path of righteousness and peace; but she could not succeed. He was resolute and decided; and after this time rarely returned home till very late at night. “I have sat alone,” said his mother, “watching for his return, till one, two, three, and even four in the morning; and when I have