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A RECKLESS COMRADE.
wicked is more dangerous than his hatred. For you can depise his hatred, and take precautions against it; but his love is secret enmity, clothed in a garment of light, against which it is difficult to be on your guard. Shun evil companions.
“All marshy places, bogs, jungles, are places full of decaying and dead vegetable matter, the atmosphere arising from which is loaded with disease, which, if imbibed for a time, will render the body unwholesome, tainting the blood. I have known men on the coast of Africa who have been so incautious as to sleep in the open air after nightfall, when the impure miasma has enveloped them; and in the morning they have awoke with the deadly coast-fever holding them in its grip; and ere another sun had descended, they were gone to their long homes.
“ There was one man I knew very well, for I had sailed several voyages with him, not a bad kind of man, take him all in all, but heedless and incautious to the last degree. Well, we had been out with our guns all day hunting for game; and by nightfall, when we again returned to the landing-place, were considerably tired with our day's sport, and not one felt much inclined to row out to the ship, especially when the moon and stars were shining so calm and bright. It looked much pleasanter to spend the night beneath the shadow of some huge limbed tree than beneath the stifling hatches : but each man
knew how great would be the peril to yield to the temptation. So we set about launching the boat, when Jem Wilson—that was my comrade's namesaid, 'Come what would, he was too tired to go off to the ship that night. He would sleep on shore.' No persuasions could induce him to alter his determination, so we threw him a boat cloak and left him. When the morning sun had banished the deadly mists, there was Jem Wilson dancing about in a strange manner on the shore. Said one, ‘He must be mad, or has the fever pretty strong.' And sure enough he had, and in a few hours' time I helped to dig his grave beneath a tall palm-tree, where we laid him to sleep until the last trumpet shall awake him. I often think of poor Jem and the deadly fever of the coast.
“And bad people are just like so many marshy and jungly places—they emit a moral miasma which it is poison and death to breathe. Again I say, beware of evil companions. What is it that Solomon says about wicked companions (and he certainly knew what evil influence is if anybody ever did) ?— ‘My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause : let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that go down into the pit: we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one purse: my son, walk not thou in
TOM POTTER'S SENTENCE.
the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.' If
you wish to steer clear of the down-hill road you must shun all evil companions, boys; remember that.”
It was many a long day before Tom Potter was again seen about Braintree. His night's exploit cost him dear, for he was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment; and like the impudent fellow he was, when the judge passed the sentence, he thanked his lordship for his trouble, and would reward him on the first possible occasion, by sending him home a monkey as a present.