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“Father,” said Grace, as he was leaving them, after a few days' stay, “it is Thanksgiving-day next month, and you and mother must come and stay with us.”
Accordingly, the following month found Aunt Sally and Uncle Tim by the minister's fireside, delighted witnesses of the Thanksgiving presents which a willing people were pouring in, and the next day they had once more the pleasure of seeing a son of theirs in the sacred desk, and hearing a sermon that everybody said was the “best he ever preached;” and it is to be remarked, by-theby, that this was the standing commentary on all James's discourses, so that it was evident that he was “going on unto perfection.”
“There's a great deal that's worth havin' in this 'ere life, after all,” said Uncle Tim, as he sat musing over the coals of the bright evening fire of that day; “that is, if we'd only take it when the Lord lays it in our way.”
“Yes,” said James; “and let us only take it as we should, and this life will be cheerfulness, and the next fulness of joy.”
Since sketching character is the mode, I too take up my pencil, not to make you laugh, though peradventure it may be—to get you to sleep.
I am now a tolerably old gentleman—an old bächelor, moreover—and, what is more to the point, an unpretending and sober-minded one. Lest, however, any of the ladies should take exceptions against me in the very outset, I will merely remark, en passant, that a man can some times become an old bachelor because he has too much heart as well as too little.
Years ago—before any of my readers were born—I was a little good-for-naught of a boy, of precisely that unlucky kind who are always in everybody's way, and always in mischief. 1 had, to watch over my uprearing, a father and mother, and a whole army of older brothers and sisters. My relatives bore a very great resemblance to other human beings, neither good angels nor the opposite class, but, as mathematicians say, “in the mean proportion.”
As I have before insinuated, I was a sort of samily scapegrace among them, and one on whose head all the domestic trespasses were regularly visited, either by real actual desert or by imputation. For this order of things, there was, I confess, a very solid and serious foundation, in the constitution of my mind. Whether I was born under some cross-eyed planet, or whether I was fairy-smitten in my cradle, certain it is that I was, from the dawn of existence, a sort of “Murad the Unlucky;” an out-of-time, out-of-place, out-of-form sort of a boy, with whom nothing prospered. Who always left open doors in cold weather? it was Henry. Who was sure to upset his coffee-cup at breakfast, or to knock over his tumbler at dinner, or to prostrate salt-cellar, pepper-box, and mustard-pot, if he only happened to move his arm 1 why, Henry. Who was plate-breaker general for the family 1 it was Henry. Who tangled mamma's silks and cottons, and tore up the last newspaper for papa, or threw down old Phoebe's clothes’-horse, with all her clean ironing thereupon why, Henry. Now all this was no “malice prepense” in me, for I solemaly believe that I was the bestaptured boy in the world; but something was
the matter with the attraction of cohesion, or the attraction of gravitation—with the general dispensation of matter around me, that, let me do what I would, things would fall down, and break, or be torn and damaged, if I only came near them; and my unluckiness seemed in exact proportion to my carefulness in any matter. If anybody in the room with me had a headache, or apy manner of nervous irritability, which made it particularly necessary for others to be quiet, and if I was in an especial desire unto the same, I was sure, while stepping around on tiptoe, to fall headlong over a chair, which would give an introductory push to the shovel, which would fall upon the tongs, which would animate the poker, and all together would set in action two or three sticks of wood, and down they would come, with just that hearty, sociable sort of racket, which showed that they were disposed to make as much of the opportunity as possible. In the same manner, everything that came into my hand, or was at all connected with me, was sure to lose by it. If I rejoiced in a clean apron in the morning, I was sure to make a full-length prostration thereupon on my way to school, and come home nothing better, but rather worse. If I was sent on an errand, I
was sure either to lose my money in going, or my purchases in returning; and on these occasions my mother would often comfort me with the reflection, that it was well that my ears were fastened to my head, or I should lose them too. Of course, I was a fair mark for the exhortatory powers, not only of my parents, but of all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, to the third and fourth generation, who ceased not to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. All this would have been very well if Nature had not gifted me with a very unnecessary and uncomfortable capacity of feeling, which, like a refined ear for music, is undesirable, because, in this world, one meets with discord minetynine times where it meets with harmony once. Much, therefore, as I furnished occasion to be scolded at, I never became used to scolding, so that I was just as much galled by it the fortyfirst time as the first. There was no such thing as philosophy in me: I had just that unreasonable heart which is not conformed unto the nature of things, neither indeed can be. I was timid, and shrinking, and proud; I was nothing to any one around me but an awkward, unlucky boy ; nothing to my parents but one of half a dozen children, whose faces were to be