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QUAKER MATRON'S WARNING.
due to him in Pennsylvania, gave Benjamin an order to collect and retain it, until he should receive directions from Vernon how to dispose of the money. This agency, before it was over, occasioned him a great deal of uneasiness; and it will be again mentioned, for the sake of the practical lesson — more valuable than the money in question — which the circumstances connected with it will furnish.
The service, which, on the day of his first arrival in Philadelphia, Benjamin received from a worthy young Quaker, in the well-principled kindness with which the latter showed him to a respectable tavern, is doubtless remembered by the reader. He is now about to receive another and somewhat similar, but more important favor, from another conscientious and benevolent individual of the same exemplary class of people. The circumstances alluded to, are related by Franklin in the following passage :“ At Newport we took in a number of
passengers, among whom were two young women, travelling together, and a sensible matron-like Quaker-lady, with her servants. I had shown an obliging disposition to render her some little services, which probably impressed her with sentiments of goodwill toward me; for when she witnessed the daily-growing familiarity between the young women and myself, which they appeared to encourage, she took me aside and said: “Young man, I am concerned for thee, as thou hast no friend with thee, and seemest not to know much of the world, or of the snares youth is exposed to. Depend upon it these are very bad women. I can see it by all their actions; and if thou art not upon thy guard, they will draw thee into some danger. They are strangers to thee; and I advise thee, in a friendly concern for thy welfare, to have no acquaintance with them.' As I seemed at first not to
think so ill of them as she did, she mentioned some things she had observed and heard, that had escaped my notice, but now convinced me she was right. I thanked her for her kind advice, and promised to follow it. When we arrived at New York they told me where they lived, and invited me to come and see them. But I avoided it, and it was well I did ; for the next day the captain missed a silver-spoon and some other things, that had been taken out of his cabin ; and knowing that these were a couple of strumpets, he got a warrant to search their lodgings, found the stolen goods, and had the thieves punished. So, though we had escaped a sunken rock, which we scraped upon, in the passage, I thought this escape of rather more importance to me."
At New York Benjamin again met his friend Collins, according to arrangement. Upon being now thrown, by the circumstances of the case, into a much closer and more constant companionship with him, than could well take place during his recent stay in Boston, he found that his friend's habits and character had undergone a most unhappy change. Through all the intimacy of their boyhood and early youth, Collins had been esteemed for his industry and sobriety, his amiable manners and love of mental improvement. He had, indeed, disclosed an uncommon genius for mathematics and the physical sciences; and having more leisure than Benjamin, for such studies, he had not only made greater proficiency in them, but had, by his attainments therein, attracted the regard of several men distinguished for their learning, and had given the most hopeful indications of future eminence.
After Benjamin's elopement from Boston, however, the misguided Collins fell into the practice of drinking brandy, which soon ripening into habitual intemperance, led, as usual, to other vices; and his friend on rejoining
VISIT TO GOVERNOR BURNET.
him in New York, was not less grieved, than surprised, to discover thąt Collins had not only been drunk every day, since his arrival in that city, but had lost all his money, in gaming ; so that Benjamin had to pay for the whole of his board and lodging while there, and his expenses to Philadelphia. This, however, he would scarcely have been able to do, had he not been fortunate enough to collect the money due on Vernon's order; so heavy a drain had Collins made on the purse
of his liberal friend. While in New York, an incident occ
ccurred, which made some compensation to Benjamin for the cost and annoyance occasioned by the misconduct of Collins; and served to deepen, at least in his own mind, if not in that of his companion, the sense of injury and degradation, which inevitably result from the habit of intemperate drinking. The incident was long afterward related by Benjamin as follows:
“ The then governor of New York, Burnet (son of Bishop Burnet), hearing from the captain that one of his
passengers had a great many books on board, desired him to bring me to see him. I waited on him, and should have taken Collins with me, if he had been sober. The governor received me with great civility; showed me his library, which was a considerable one; and we had a good deal of conversation relative to books and authors. This was the second governor, who had done me the honor to take notice of me; and for a poor boy, like me, it was very pleasing."
Unhappy, besotted Collins ! He was as highly gifted as his friend; he possessed at that period of their lives, more science, and a wider range of literary acquirements; and had become not a little distinguished for the uncommon fluency, grace, eloquence, variety, and spirit of his conversation. And though he, too, was
boy,” yet, if his habits and personal condition had not rendered him, with all his rare gifts and attainments, unfit for any personal intercourse with people of cultivation and refinement, dignity of character and purity of manners, how still more remarkable would have been that interview, in the apartment of Governor Burnet's library, with two such representatives of the young generation then verging to maturity, pressing forward to a fame destined to be won in upholding the public liberties, or in serving and adorning their country by their literary accomplishments and performances, or by advancing the limits of human knowledge !
VERNON'S MONEY-COLLINS-SIR WILLIAM KEITH-MISS
On reaching Philadelphia, Collins endeavored to procure a clerkship in some counting-house; but his aspect, or manner, or dram-flavored breath, or all together, must have betrayed him; for although he had brought recommendations, and though, but for his fatal habit, these recommendations would probably have been superfluous, yet his applications for a place were unsuccessful; so that he continued living at the expense of his generous friend, and at the same house with him.
It was still further unlucky for the latter, that Collins was aware of his having collected Vernon's debt; inasmuch as he managed to borrow, from time to time, in petty sums, to be returned “as soon as he should be in business,” so much of that fund as to occasion, before long, no little distress to Benjamin, especially when it occurred to him that he might be suddenly required to pay it over to the owner.
His compliance, in this matter, with the importunities of Collins, was the weakest act Benjamin had yet done. Although that compliance proceeded, doubtless, from a warm feeling of kindness for an old friend, wholly unmingled with any conscious intent to do an act morally wrong, and though the language of Vernon,