FINDING THE WAY.
On an early December evening, in a bright, quiet room, at the Delavan House, in Albany, sat Bart Ridgeley alone, thoughtfully and sadly contemplating a manuscript, that lay before him, which ran as follows:
“UNIONVILLE, Nov. 27, 1838.
“My Dear Bart:—Poor Sartliff has, it seems, finally found the way. It was that short, direct, everlasting old way, so crowded, which everybody finds, and nobody loses or mistakes. You told me of your last interview with him, as did he, not long after you left. It seemed to have depressed him. He spoke of you as one who could have greatly aided him, but did not blame you.
“The next time I saw him, I found him much changed for the worse. He was thin and haggard—more so than I had ever seen him. His old hopefulness and buoyancy were gone, and he was given to very gloomy and depressing views of things. He thought he had made great progress, in fact had reached a new discovery, and it was not in the least encouraging.
“He finally concluded that the grand and wondrously beautiful spirits that he seemed to get glimpses of, and whose voices he used to hear, were really convict spirits, or angels, imprisoned on or banished to this earth, for a period of years, or for eternity, for crimes committed in the sun, or some less luminous abode; and I presume are cutting up here, much after their old way. Though it must be conceded that this world is a place of severe punishment.
“He went on to a more depressing view of us mortals, and said he had concluded that our souls were also the souls of beings who had inhabited some more favored region of the universe, also sent here for punishment; and that each was compelled to enter and inhabit a human body, for the lifetime of that body; and to suffer by partaking of all of its wretched, sensual, and degrading vicissitudes; and that whenever the soul is sufficiently punished, the body dies and permits it to escape.
“I suggested that it made no difference where the soul came from, if there was one, nor how many bodies it had inhabited; and that it made against his idea, that the soul was older than the body; for if it was, it would be conscious of that pre-existence. He said that every soul did at times have a consciousness of existence in another and older form, which was very dark from its transgressions. But he took the part of the native body against this alien soul, and felt hurt and grieved that our world was a mere penal colony—a penitentiary for all the scabbed and leprous souls and spirits of the rest of God’s creation. It was bad economy; and he grieved over it as a deep and irreparable personal injury.
“This was a month ago; and I never saw him again. He wandered off down into the neighborhood of Erie, where he had many acquaintances, took less care of himself, went more scantily clad, was more abstemious in diet, and more and more disregarded the conditions of human existence. Finally, his mind became as wandering as his body.