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like shadows amid the ruins of departed greatness, and at length wilfully shut their eyes to neglect and ridicule. I continued to hover around the scenes of my former glories, to compliment, to make love, and to be laughed at.
About this period I lost my parents, who died within a few weeks of each other. I was then arrived at the age of forty-five, a period in which our sensibilities are apt to be a little blunted. Yet, I can safely say, I regretted them sincerely, and that my regrets have every year acquired additional poignancy. On settling the affairs of the estate, it was found, that the landed property was much involved in consequence of the drafts I had made during my travels; the mighty tailors' bills I had incurred every year, and the various expenses I had indulged in while presiding over the empire of fashion. I was advised to dispose of one half to clear the other of debt, and fully intended to do it every morning of my life for several years. But, some how or other, the time taken up in dressing, paying visits, and other indispensable occupations of a man of fashion, consumed all my leisure,
debts accumulated in a most inconvenient manner. The greasy rogues who had lent me money, began to foreclose, seize, and sell my city lots, one after another. I was regularly summoned in the name of John Doe and Richard Roe, or some such worthy persons, to put in my plea, and defend myself against these doughty champions, but I hated trouble, and for once in my life was wise enough to save myself from the expenses of the law, by quietly letting the law take its course.
In this way, I was, by degrees, stripped of my city lots, till not one was left to tell what had become of the others. I congratulated myself at being at length rid of the visits of these confounded Darby and Joans of the law, and one day bethought myself suddenly of making a visit to the mile square, which, as I have related, my ancestor received from Governor Kieft, for a good joke upon the Yankees. When I arrived there, I found that the best of this joke was, that those worthy persons, John Doe and Richard Roe, had been beforehand with me.
They had got fast possession, by some means which I never took the trouble to investigate, and as l had heard possession was eleven points of the law, I felt no inclination to combat against such fearful odds. To conclude, my estate was gone, I had as many wants as ever, and nothing but my debts to supply them.
The world of fashion turned its back upon me, with that infallible instinct which never fails to detect the approaches of poverty. It is by the aid of this instinct, that people distinguish the person who wears a threadbare coat out of a con.
tempt of finery, from the poor creature who wears it because he can afford no better. It is this which enables them to discover in the unnapped hat, the soiled linen, and the look of subdued humility, the infallible symptoms of decay. It is this which inspires the tradesman to become suddenly hard pressed for money, and to be particularly attentive in bringing in his bill; and, finally, it is this which suggests to the catchpole, as he glances his eye upon the faded costume, the seducing idea of, ere long, clapping the unhallowed paw upon the threadbare shoulder. But I will do the world the justice to say, that it did not entirely neglect me. There were certain persons, to whom I owed money, who paid me particular attention, and either came or sent every morning, to inquire after my health, and to ask me for money. Some of my old friends came also, either to reproach me for not following their advice, or to favour me with more. Happy, indeed, is the man who is in debt, for he will have plenty of advice, and his creditors will certainly pray for his prosperity. It is also a proof of his respectability, for it is not every body that can arrive at the eminence of being trusted. Let no one, therefore, stigmatize the debtor, since the relation between debtor and creditor forms, as it were, the cement of society, which, without it, would dissolve of itself. For my part, I will do my creditors the justice to say, that they never turned their backs upon me, or neglected me in any manner whatever.
I continued to wear my embroidered waistcoats, to frequent the public walks, and to live a gentleman's life as usual. When I wanted money I borrowed it, as long as any body would trust me; and when I could borrow no longer, I ran in debt, and spunged upon my landlady. But all things must have an end ; and though the patience of a debtor surpasses that of Job, that of his creditors is apt to wear out suddenly. I began to have an instinctive intimation in my own mind, that they would arrest me before long, and from that time put myself on the defensive. I never ventured out without carefully reconnoitering the street up and down, to see if any suspicious person was in sight; and whenever I turned a corner, took care to look abroad as far in every direction as possible. On Sundays, however, I came out in all my glory, strutted along the public walks, and turned up my nose at constables and creditors manfully. By degrees they contracted their lines of circumvallation, and blockaded me so closely, that I could only venture out in the dark nights, and on Sunday, the day open to us poor hunted deer. Perceiving this, my creditors combined together, and
made up a purse to pay one of the most expert man-catchers of the city for kidnapping me.
I now felt bound in honour to defend myself by putting in practice all those tactics which so naturally occur to us who have seen the world, on such occasions. The fellow was a stanch pointer, but he had an old fox to deal with. He assumed fifty disguises, but I always knew him by a sure instinct, which, after a while, never failed me in detecting the approach of a catchpole, as surely as some people do the presence of an invisible cat in a room. At billiard tables, coffee rooms, and other places which I sometimes ventured to visit, by taking advantage of a back door, it seemed that I could actually tell when he was coming before he came in sight, and was frequently prompted by this inward monitor to break a conversation abruptly, and dart out of the room, to the surprise of my companions, who wondered at my conduct, until it was explained by the appearance of the officer.
In this way I baffled the catchpole for a whole year; but fate ordained I should fall into his hands at last. One dark evening, apt for mystery, I received a note from an old flame of mine, complaining of my long absence, reproaching me for supposing that my misfortunes had forfeited her regard, and inviting me to meet her at eight o'clock at the house of a mutual friend. This was approaching me on the weak side of my intrenchments. Creditors, catchpoles, writs, and stone jugs, all vanished away, like mists at the dawn; the spirit of my better days awoke within me; I put on my best array,
and without taking the precaution to slip out by the back way, sallied forth gay as a nightingale. The first step I took was in the arms of my faithful follower the catchpole, who, by virtue of authority from my old enemies, John Doe and Richard Roe, bore me to prison. Thus, like another Mark Antony, did I lose the world for love.
There are some men, with so little of the true spirit of resignation, that they resist with all their might, and use the most violent efforts to arrest their course, when they find themselves going down hill. But, for my part, I was too much of a philosopher for this. Whenever I found myself going, I let myself go at once, and got to the bottom as quickly as possible. People are continually breaking their bones by jumping out of a run-away carriage, while those who remain quietly within, and take their chance, escape shot free. In a little while I was as happy in jail, for aught I know, as I ever was out of it. My creditors allowed me my clothes, so that I enjoyed the blessing I valued above all others, that of dressing in an embroidered
suit. It is true, I had few to admire me, but this I did not much mind;
I had a piece of a looking-glass, in which I admired myself; and am pretty certain I made a serious impression on the chambermaid that kept my room in order. My creditors were obliged to make me a weekly allowance, sufficient to furuish crackers and apples, and as I was never an epicure, I was perfectly satisfied, for I could sleep in peace, and bid John Doe and Richard Roe defiance.
But a man can never be at peace long in this world. The legislature took it into its nead to disturb the repose of my retirement, by passing a law establishing prison limits, under pretence of humanity to the prisoners. It was intimated to me, that some of my old friends would be my securities, if I chose to quit the prison for the jail liberties. I declined with contempt this invidious offer, and sent them word I was not to be entrapped into the world again. My creditors, finding I had nothing left for them, and that my support in the prison was a dead loss to them, signed a release, and directed the sheriff to
about my business. I told him I had no business; and would not stir an inch. My creditors had put me there against my will, and there they might keep me. They were obliged to turn me out, which they did in spite of my expostulations on the cruelty of thus setting me again adrift in the wide world.
Finding myself thus thrust from my peaceful asylum, I determined they should thrust me no farther, and resolutely confined myself to the limits allowed for debtors I insisted that it was against law and reason to push a man out of prison against his will, after having put him there without his leave; but as I had not money to bring a suit for this violent ejectment, I was obliged to submit to this monstrous infringement on the rights of a citizen. However, I was resolved they should make me the same allowance out of jail that they did in it, and I have ever since punctually received it, either from them, or from some one of my old friends ; for I never thought it worth while to inquire whence it came. In addition to this, I regularly receive, as you know, from some unknown band, twice a year, a present of fifty dollars ; which, together with my other allowance, sets me quite above the world. Between ourselves. I suspect the hundred dollars comes from the little Dutch milliner, who married the soap boiler's son, and now rides in her coach. I flatter myself she still retains a partiality for my person; of which, however, my sense of honour prevents me from taking any undue advantage.
I am frequently solicited to return to that 6 illimitable void,"
the world ; but I would not exchange the sanctuary I now enjoy, from the persecutions of creditors, catchpoles, John Doe and Richard Roe, and the delightful conviction that here they cannot molest me, for the liberty of boundless space. If I return to the world, I shall run in debt to the tailor, of a certainty ; and then the ghosts of sheriffs and officers would haunt my steps by day, my dreams by night. But here nobody will trust me-here no two-legged bloodhound carries his two-legged prey with an instinct that never fails, a perseverance that never tires—here there is nothing to hope, and nothing to fear; and here, as in the grave, “ the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest."