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dwells. Let my readers beware how they censure a man for his austerity; for it is very possible, if the views which now occupy his mind, could burst on yours, the same effects would follow, and you would be as severe as he. And, after all, no man was ever austere by choice, who did not take pleasure in his austerity. If one man finds in his preacher all that another finds in his favorite actor; if his Bible is his play-book; the death of Christ the most interesting catastrophe; if prayer is his recreation, and his closet his ball-room; if musing is his delight and religion his glory; what right have they to reproach him or call him miserable, whose barren hearts drive them to barren pleasures; who are compelled to wander in imaginary gardens, dressed by fiction, because they find nothing but a leafless desert in real life?
I am aware that our fathers, in some respects, pushed their austerity to an extreme. I am not holding them up as faultless characters, or attempting to justify all their measures. When they wished to regulate a whole community by coercive measures, on a plan suited only to the most devoted Christians, they certainly made a fundamental mistake; for manners are certainly not the province of law. They are essentially free; and no man can be happy or virtuous by a public decree. When king James tried to make the Puritans merry, by compelling them to dance on the Sabbath, he endeavored an absurdity; and when our fathers tried to make the youth of a
whole community as grave as church members, and moreover, by law; it was a similar mistake. Hence we find the reaction; the outbreaking of violent pleasure, the more rude as the more forbidden. I have heard old men tell, amidst the coercive austerity of the day, of wash-tubs set on chimnies; frogs dropped on ashes; cart-wheels taken off; walls built across public roads; and all the freaks of rustic mischief, the flash and outbreak of a fiery mind in youth, when age is, or is thought to be, too severe. But, abating this error, I cannot but think that our fathers judged wisely in believing that republicanism, based on religion, must have a system of manners comparatively severe and suited to itself.
Religion is certainly a serious concern. No man
ever meditated on its momentous truths without feeling the follies of life to be empty, and finding a new taste generated in his heart. Besides, the pleasures of life give us their whole value by keeping their proper place. You cannot make more of human life than it is. It is like a rose. Leave it to its native effusions on its stalk, and while the season lasts, it will be beautiful and sweet; but when you crush it in your hands to extort its whole essence-it dies.
It is unworthy of a reasonable being, to spend any of the little time allotted us, without some tendency, either direct or oblique, to the end of our existence.
BUT were the Puritans a sour and morose generation, who, in pursuit of their political theories and religious abstractions, had extinguished all the spontaneous boundings of the heart? No amusements ; no relaxation; none of those free hours, when character throws off its fetters, and friendship is cemented. The reader perhaps has seen, in walking in a pine forest in the month of November, when the sun was verging towards sitting, how his level beams stole through the evergreen foliage, and the time and place, though sombre and severe, gave their darkened brightness a warmer welcome. It is no unapt illustration of Puritan amusements.
They are rare ;
but they fall not upon exhausted and hackneyed hearts.
Believe me on this point, for I speak from experience. With what delight, in former years, did I set out on a whortleberry expedition; or, as we had it, in colloquial language, going a huckleberrying! David, in the first place, brings up old dobbin from the pasture, takes off his fetters, combs down his mane, smooths his fetlocks, sees that his shoes are tight, and tackles him into the old waggon, whose capacious body, like the Trojan horse, can hold a host of people. Over this waggon, we weave branches of birch and hemlock, forming a grateful shade, to protect us from the sun of a New England summer, on the last of July or first of August. In this, is placed three or four transverse boards, planed smooth, like the seats in a whale-boat, for the party to sit on. Into this arbor on wheels, we crowd, lads and lasses, young and old, with a good supply of cakes, biscuit and cheese, with little baskets made of birch bark, into which we are to drop our whortleberries, after picking them. After much tumbling, laughing, and crowding, (one lady drops her bonnet, and another her gloves,) the old bay horse puts forth his sinews, and the waggon begins to move
Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Through flood, through fire,
until we reach the whortleberry pasture, which lies about four miles off. Here begin the labors of the day.
But now the character of the several pickers begins to be developed. Some make it a point of conscience, not to put any thing into their baskets, until they have first filled their own maw, of which number, I must confess, I was one. Some love to wander about, to explore new grounds, and, like other mortals, are so intent on distant prospects, as never to collect the treasures around them. Some ladies fancy that they must scream at every toad or reptile they see; and some are so engaged in talking and laughing, that they wholly overlook the business of the day. My aunt Hannah was the best picker I ever knew; and my uncle Gideon incomparably the worst: for he was so intent on taking care of the young ladies, freeing their clothes from briers, and assisting them in skipping from rock to rock, that the expedition was always to him, a day of more gallantry than thrift. I believe, in my conscience, that he never got berries enough to speckle the surface of one pudding.
So roll the hours, the company scattering like a flock of white sheep, and the woods and ravines resounding with the vacant laugh, until the hour of dinner comes. This was always a busy time to my uncle Gideon. First you must select your spot by the side of a rock, or under a great tree, and at a convenient distance from some living spring, or run