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THE PROGRESS OF VICE.

CHAPTER VIII.

EMANCIPATION.

FROM the first moment of temptation to that of guilt there is an interval, which varies according to the temperament and the state of the moral feelings. It is a time of conflict-an ordeal through which we pass from innocence to guilt. The longer this conflict lasts, the more desperate and hopeless will be the heart's perversion. For we, in a manner, reason ourselves into guilt: the mind flatters the heart with specious arguments—the idea of nonresponsibility boldly enters — we sin with perfect consent, and thenceforth all the motives of conduct centre in self-gratification, with all the desires of our depraved nature revolving in an endless round. It is true that conscience never dies; but in the condition now contemplated, it is effectually silenced by the clamour of desires, until disease or severe calamity, the result of our transgressions, shall obliterate or weaken desire, and then ensue the pangs

of

remorse.

THE FATAL BARRIER PASSED.

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Virtue is the triumph over depraved propensities. These often exist, undisclosed till opportunities exhibit them in action. The fiercest of animals are the most wary. To fulfil their destiny in creation, cunning is superadded to their terrible energies ; and when to men of similar organization a powerful intellect is given, the result is the same: it is impossible to judge them by appearances in circumstances which do not tempt their essential characteristics. Such men are either virtuous or vicious to an extraordinary degree. If they refrain from vice their motives must be strong in proportion to their fierce propensities : if they yield, their motives are equally strong; they always propose to themselves a definite purpose in every crime. The evil is enhanced when the mind is naturally inclined to that divine philosophy which delights in the contemplation of the Creator's works; for that delight will continue, perversely suggesting motives to unholy gratification, as the end and object of all that God has made so good.

Does not something of the kind appear in Leonard's first letter to his father? To the reflective reader, as well as to his religious aunt, perhaps, it was evident that the fatal barrier was already passed. The language of intellectual grossness is always refined when it is expedient that its propensities should not be discovered. That letter was written by Leonard immediately after a severe depression of spirits, from which his seducer, the Count Valremy, had delivered and raised him to exultation.

F

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SPECIOUS EQUIVOCATION.

The pang of remorse which instantly follows the commission of the first crime, is like the enemy charging with fixed bayonets.

Away with this irrational sadness," said the Count to the perverted youth on that memorable morning. “Are you not in the Temple of Pleasure ? Think of the past and the future, and bless your happy lot. We are all of us the sport of opinions that keep us from bliss, and torment us in the midst of enjoyment."

Thoughts wild and dreary tempest my soul. I would recall my innocence—my ignorance of guilt; but, alas! the wish redoubles my torment.”

“ A proof that it is irrational, my friend; for good is pleasant, evil is repulsive.”

Specious equivocation! Its epigrammatic turn captivated the youth: the effect was visible. The Count proceeded :

All quadrupeds can swim naturally; but the first attempt is followed by painful fatigue: by degrees, however, the natural effort is attended with natural pleasure in accordance with the Creator's will, who promises pleasure to every fulfilment of his laws; and permits pain to result only in order to lead the transgressor into the natural path once more."

Another equivocation,-true in point of fact, but vilely false in the theory which it was intended to enforce. Eager for consolation, the youth received the words in the intended meaning. This was evident from the animation of his countenance, as if a

LEPROUS DISTILMENT.

67

ever.

new light had entered his mind. The Count followed up his advantage

“ Consider the young eagle in its first efforts to begin its glorious career. Pain and exhaustion attend and follow them; but nature still prompts the effort. Shall pain and exhaustion in the present dispel the brilliant hopes of the future? No, no. Behold the young king of the mountain a week hence, and see how he fans the buoyant air and stems the whistling breeze, breasting the storm that roused him from his nest, utterly oblivious of the pain that is past, happy and free as intended by the Creator. You smile, my dear young friend. Your brilliant refined mind has consoled itself; you have fung sadness to the winds. Let it be expelled for

It will never return. It cannot return. Let us go forth: I will teach you philosophy by symbols; it has been my constant study; and not in vain, if it has enabled me to rout your irrational depression.”

When we reflect how rapidly the mind embraces and expands suggestions which yield consolation, particularly when we are young and in the enjoyment of perfect health, is it to be wondered at that Leonard's depression gave place to serenity, soon to be followed by exultation when his perverter, fulfilling his promise, led him forth through many a walk and avenue, expatiating the while on the topics suggested by his numerous symbols, and instilling the sweetened poison of his “ philosophy” into a mind ready, eager to drink the “leprous distilment?

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The Chateau Valremy, or Temple of Pleasure will be subsequently described ; and should Leonard's character, as before sketched from appearances, be belied in the future, the moral will be evolved that “extremity is the trier of spirits,” and that in good, as well as in evil, first impressions are generally fallacious, or at least subject to subsequent modifications.

On the other hand, whatever may be the “ end” of the Jesuit scheme now begun, it is a fearful thought to think into whose hands this youth has been fortuitously thrown. Of this result, the Jesuits are, of course, innocent: it will be a stumbling-block in their winding path; and it should remind every reader, as well as the Jesuits, not to “count without his host."

END OF PART I.

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