An Autobiography HTML version

could have done if he had been manager of a bank. Everybody speculated--in mines, in
land, and in leases. I was earning by my pen a very decent income, and I spent it,
sometimes wisely and sometimes foolishly. I could be liberal to church and to good
causes. I was able to keep a dear little State child at school for two years after the
regulation age, and I was amply repaid by seeing her afterwards an honoured wife and
mother, able to assist her children and their companions with their lessons. I helped some
lame dogs over the stile. One among them was a young American of brilliant scholastic
attainments, who was the victim of hereditary alcoholism. His mother, a saintly and noble
prohibitionist worker, whom I afterwards met in America, had heard of me, and wrote
asking me to keep a watchful eye on her boy. This I did for about 12 months, and found
him employment. He held a science degree, and was an authority on mineralogy,
metallurgy, and kindred subjects. During this speculative period he persuaded me to
plunge (rather wildly for me) in mining shares. I plunged to the extent of 500 pounds, and
I owe it to the good sense and practical ability of my nephew that I lost no more heavily
than I did, for he paid 100 pounds to let me off my bargain.
My protege continued to visit me weekly, and we wrote to one another once a week or
oftener. The books I lent to him I know to this day by their colour and the smell of
tobacco. I wrote to his mother regularly, and consulted with his good friend, Mr.
Waterhouse, over what was best to be done. One bad outburst he had when he had got
some money through me to pay off liabilities. I recollect his penitent, despairing
confession, with the reference to Edwin Arnold's poem
He who died at Azun gave
This to those who dug his grave.
The time came when I felt I could hold him no longer, although that escapade was
forgiven, and I determined to send him to his mother--not without misgivings about what
she might have still to suffer. He wrote to me occasionally. His health was never good,
and I attribute the craving for drink and excitement a good deal to physical causes; but at
the same time I am sure that he could have withstood it by a more resolute will. The will
is the character--it is the real man. When people say that the first thing in education is to
break the will, they make a radical mistake. Train the will to work according to the
dictates of an enlightened conscience, for it is all we have to trust to for the stability of
character. My poor lad called me his Australian mother. When I saw his real mother, I
wondered more and more what sort of a husband she had, or what atavism Edward drew
from to produce a character so unlike hers. I heard nothing from herself of what she went
through, but from her friends I gathered that he had several outbreaks, and cost her far
more than she could afford. She paid everything that he owed in Adelaide, except her
debt to me, but that I was repaid after her death in 1905, and she always felt that I had
been a true friend to her wayward son. I recollect one day my friend coming on his
weekly visit with a face of woe to tell me he had seen a man in dirt and rags, with half a
shirt, who had been well acquainted with Charles Dickens and other notables in London.
My friend had fed him and clothed him, but he wanted to return to England to rich
friends. I wrote to a few good folk, and we raised the money and sent the wastrel to the
old country. How grateful he appeared to be, especially to the kind people who had taken