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Let Every Man Mind His Own Business
by [?]

“And so you will not sign this paper?” said Alfred Melton to his cousin, a fine-looking young man, who was lounging by the centre table.

“Not I, indeed. What in life have I to do with these decidedly vulgar temperance pledges? Pshaw! they have a relish of whiskey in their very essence!”

“Come, come, Cousin Melton,” said a brilliant, dark-eyed girl, who had been lolling on the sofa during the conference, “I beg of you to give over attempting to evangelize Edward. You see, as Falstaff has it, ‘he is little better than one of the wicked.’ You must not waste such valuable temperance documents on him.”

“But, seriously, Melton, my good fellow,” resumed Edward, “this signing, and sealing, and pledging is altogether an unnecessary affair for me. My past and present habits, my situation in life,–in short, every thing that can be mentioned with regard to me,–goes against the supposition of my ever becoming the slave of a vice so debasing; and this pledging myself to avoid it is something altogether needless–nay, by implication, it is degrading. As to what you say of my influence, I am inclined to the opinion, that if every man will look to himself, every man will be looked to. This modern notion of tacking the whole responsibility of society on to every individual is one I am not at all inclined to adopt; for, first, I know it is a troublesome doctrine; and, secondly, I doubt if it be a true one. For both which reasons, I shall decline extending to it my patronage.”

“Well, positively,” exclaimed the lady, “you gentlemen have the gift of continuance in an uncommon degree. You have discussed this matter backward and forward till I am ready to perish. I will take the matter in hand myself, and sign a temperance pledge for Edward, and see that he gets into none of those naughty courses upon which you have been so pathetic.”

“I dare say,” said Melton, glancing on her brilliant face with evident admiration, “that you will be the best temperance pledge he could have. But every man, cousin, may not be so fortunate.”

“But, Melton,” said Edward, “seeing my steady habits are so well provided for, you must carry your logic and eloquence to some poor fellow less favored.” And thus the conference ended.

“What a good disinterested fellow Melton is!” said Edward, after he had left.

“Yes, good, as the day is long,” said Augusta, “but rather prosy, after all. This tiresome temperance business! One never hears the end of it nowadays. Temperance papers–temperance tracts–temperance hotels–temperance this, that, and the other thing, even down to temperance pocket handkerchiefs for little boys! Really, the world is getting intemperately temperate.”

“Ah, well! with the security you have offered, Augusta, I shall dread no temptation.”

Though there was nothing peculiar in these words, yet there was a certain earnestness of tone that called the color into the face of Augusta, and set her to sewing with uncommon assiduity. And thereupon Edward proceeded with some remark about “guardian angels,” together with many other things of the kind, which, though they contain no more that is new than a temperance lecture, always seem to have a peculiar freshness to people in certain circumstances. In fact, before the hour was at an end, Edward and Augusta had forgotten where they began, and had wandered far into that land of anticipations and bright dreams which surrounds the young and loving before they eat of the tree of experience, and gain the fatal knowledge of good and evil.

But here, stopping our sketching pencil, let us throw in a little background and perspective that will enable our readers to perceive more readily the entire picture.

Edward Howard was a young man whose brilliant talents and captivating manners had placed him first in the society in which he moved. Though without property or weight of family connections, he had become a leader in the circles where these appendages are most considered, and there were none of their immunities and privileges that were not freely at his disposal.