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you were going off to some sermonizing. Mind you bring home the text,” he continued, with a smile of disdain.
Old Thompson, as he was sneeringly called, was one of the youngest of the clerks ; but, like Herbert's old schoolfellow Alfred, he had stood firm against the temptations with which he was surrounded. “ His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal ; Nor number nor example with him wrought, To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind, Though single”- .
Ah, but that was the objection, the stumbling-block, to Herbert-single. He would have been very well content to take old Thompson as his pattern, if his other companions had done so too: but to be linked in friendship with a young man who was perpetually being quizzed for his religion ; to be pinned to his coat-sleeve, as their fellows would have said ; perhaps
to be called old Herbert—the idea was too monstrous. The sneering smile conquered him. He hastened to disclaim the dreadful notion that he was engaged to hear a sermon, or to any of old Thompson's whimsical resorts ; and after a faint resistance, he yielded his early prejudices, and disobeyed his father's affectionate injunctions. He went that night only for once, as he protested in secret to old Thompson. But no one should say, or think, “I will do what my conscience tells me I ought not to do, only once; I will not repel this temptation with all my strength ; but I will exert all my powers against it next time." In spite of his misgivings, Herbert was fascinated with the amusement; no arguments nor sneers were needed to prompt him to a second visit; and before long he became the inviter, rather than the invited.
And what harm was there in it? Much, in many ways. By giving way to the allurements of the theatre, the weakminded young man soon lost all relish for the business in which he was engaged. Day-books and ledgers were dull things, and to be writing all day long was tiresome work; and the consequence was, that Herbert became negligent of his duty, and made so many blunders in his books, as to call forth the frequent reprimands of bis employer.
Then these frequent visits to the theatre broke into his proper hours of rest, and consumed a large part of the money that he received. Sleepless nights after the dissipation of the evening, gave Herbert many a day's head-ache ; and an exhausted purse gave him many an hour's heart-ache, which no remembrance of past
pleasures, nor anticipation of future ones, could send away.
Conscience could not always be lulled to sleep in Herbert's breast. Although he tried to persuade himself that he was pursuing a very innocent amusement, he knew better than this. He could not but feel that very unholy passions were excited within him by what he heard and witnessed ; that his remaining reverence for the Bible and the sabbath was very fast diminishing; and that, in addition to this, he had made light of the injunctions of a father who loved him dearly, and sought only his advantage in the restrictions he had laid down. It was under the influence of depressing thoughts such as these, that Herbert, more than once, said to himself, “I will never go to the theatre again.” But then, if he were to
refuse to go, he should be laughed at ! This was too dreadful to be borne. To be called or thought a coward-it was not to be endured; so he acted the coward in reality. .
But it was not in one particular alone that Herbert gave up his better judgment to the guidance and control of others, lest he should be thought a coward.
“Nonsense !" shouted a gay companion, in his ears, one Sunday morning ; " you are not going to mope away your time in psalm-singing to-day? Leave that to old Thompson, my hearty, or go to church when the sun does not shine. See what a glorious day it is for a good stroll out of this smoky hole. Come, what do you say ? Where shall we go ? Hornsey ? Greenwich? Primrose-bill?".
“I-I really cannot go with you to-day.