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bringeth mens' minds about to religion." What could be expected from Everard, a child studying metaphysics, but error and untruth? An infant playing with the strings of a harp maketh not sweet music.
But why did not Everard peruse some good antagonist work? There were many such in his library, and it was his intention to read them hereafter but at present he was counteracting the prejudices which had been instilled into his youthful mind by his mother, the parish minister, and the Bible. All this was only a preparative, a certain undercoating of paint which he was smearing over the edifice of his mind; it was not intended to remain there; but it did; the structure was defaced; and thus did it stand for many years the monument of a purpose unaccomplished.
Amongst other works which Everard alighted upon was Godwin's Political Justice. "Here," said the young student, as he closed the book, "I have found what I have so long been seeking. This is truth; this is reason: I am contented. Here can I anchor in safety, secure from the storms of desolating infidelity, and equally sheltered from the whirlwinds of ruthless and intolerant bigotry. This is pure, rational, unadulterated truth. This is the haven of my wandering de
sires. Happy, indeed, was the hour which directed my bark to so prosperous a port."
But did Everard understand what he read? I do not think it likely that he did. His intellect had just arrived at a degree of maturity, which enabled him to comprehend the full force of each individual argument, as one after another they passed like the scenes of a moving panorama, in gradual succession before him, though his powers were not sufficiently extended to take in a series of arguments to classify them, to compare them, and to reason on the efficiency of a whole, from the relation of its parts to one another. He knew just enough to collect gall, and to think that he was gathering honey.
When Everard's mother died, the poor boy naturally expected that the small degree of forbearance, which had hitherto been exercised towards him, would now be entirely withdrawn. But he was mistaken. Mr. Sinclair became more kind, not more harsh, in his demeanour. Without approximating to the fondness of the parent, he became altogether a different person. He did not kick his son; he did not call him a natural. He sometimes said, "Come here, Everard," and not "Come here, you spooney." He gave his boy a book at Christmas. I believe it was White's
Farriery. Once he condescended to say, "You have a very fine head of hair." Poor Everard! he could not help crying, when he marked the altered conduct of his father. All the thumps he had received, all the curses that had been heaped upon him, had not wrung from him half so many tears as did those few words of kindness.
I am not sure what it was that wrought this change in the behaviour of Everard's surviving parent. Perhaps it was, that there was no opposition; for Mr. Sinclair, when he was opposed, always persisted, with double vehemence, in the conduct which was controverted by his opposers. He did this out of spite, for he was spiteful. Obstinate people generally are. - Perhaps, however, it was remorse. I hope it was, for I would not deal harshly even with Mr. Sinclair. He might have been desirous to atone for the death of his wife by kindness to his poor child. He knew well enough that he had killed the former by hating and persecuting the latter. Perhaps, he was sorry for what he had done; and this strange alteration in his demeanour was the overflowing of a contrite heart.
But the kindliness of Mr. Sinclair endured not for many days. It was a bright, evanescent gleam of sunshine, short-lived as it was beautiful and cheering.
Everard was no hypocrite. He was the most single-hearted creature in the world: the very thought of duplicity made him shudder. He had never kept a secret in his life: there was no difference with him, between thinking and saying. He had never entertained a thought, which he would have shrunk from embodying in words; he had never cherished any reflections, which he would have hesitated to proclaim aloud, from a high place, in the presence of the whole world. Much less upon the present reason did he think that there was any occasion for duplicity. Encouraged by the unusual condescension of his father, he freely unburthened his heart: it was a relief, it was a delight to him: how glad he was to find a living creature, in whose presence he might pour out his soul; and that creature, too, his father how full of happiness he was. Mr. Sinclair inclined his ear, and Everard discoursed frankly. He scrupled not to speak of his studies and his doubts; he hesitated not to lay bare his bosom-— all that he had discarded of his old, and all that he cherished of his new faith, nothing was concealed from his father.
Mr. Sinclair at first was astounded. He knew His first
not what to make of this confession.
idea was that his son had gone listened in silence and marvelled.
mad; but he Everard soon
became somewhat more explicit. He declared that the existing state of things was little conducible to the happiness of the community. The religion, in the tenets of which he had been educated, was unsatisfactory. He was not convinced of its infallibility. Reason was the best criterion of truth. Opinions ought not to be hereditary.
Mr. Sinclair opened his eyes. He was no longer perplexed with regard to the drift of poor Everard's discourse. He poured out a glass of port, for he happened to be sitting over his wine. Then he slapped his thigh vehemently with the palm of his right hand, and pronounced this dreadful anathema:
"Opinions ought not to be hereditary! I'll tell you what, Master Everard, nor property either. If you expect to get anything of mine, you'll find yourself wonderfully mistaken. I guess, Master Philosopher, you'll have to whistle for it. Why, damn me, the boy has gone mad; he will doubt soon that I am his father; and, by Jove, I begin to do the same. That ever I should have begotten
an atheist that ever a son of mine should be a heathen! I would almost as leave that he were a poet. He will ruin himself and bring disgrace upon his family by his heterodoxical opinions. But the world shall not say that it was my doing: I will have all this stuff flogged out of you. I