For several years following this first interview with Mr. L. we followed him, and did our best to assist him to enter upon some vocation for which he was better fitted. Again and again we and other friends of his helped him to secure work, but always it was the old story. His mind was so active, so intelligent, so eager for expression, that the drudgery, the monotony, the routine, the small pay, and the consequent lack of the many elegances and luxuries he so strongly desired were too much for him. His crimes were never serious, and never those requiring great courage. He never stole any very large sums. For this reason much of his time was spent in the work house or in jail, rather than in the penitentiary. In addition to petty thieving, he had acquired some little ability as a confidence man, and was capable of ensnaring small sums from credulous or sympathetic people on various pretexts. The last time we heard of him he had called upon a friend of ours, professed his complete and permanent reform, wept over his former failures, and promised faithfully—and with the greatest possible fervency and apparent sincerity—to do better in the future. He said that he had an opportunity to make a trip on a whaling vessel and he thought this opportunity would be the best thing in the world for him, as it would take him away from his old, evil associates and give him an opportunity to save money and make good in a new life. He wished our friend to give him $4 to buy a ticket to New Bedford. Our friend gave him the money and also a postal card, on which he had written his own address. “Now, L.,” he said, “I believe you, and I want you to show me that you are playing square with me. When you get your new position and are about to sail, I want you to write me about it on this postal card, and mail it to me so that I will know that you are carrying out your promises.”
THE OLD, OLD STORY
L. promised faithfully, and said, “I want to write a letter to my mother, and tell her where I am going. I wish you would let me have an envelope and a stamp.” Our friend obliged him with the necessaries, and L. left the office beaming with gratitude and profuse in his promises to return the loan as soon as he came back from his trip on the whaling vessel. A few days later my friend received a postal card, dated at New Bedford, Massachusetts. In one corner of the postal card was the notation, “Received at the post office at New Bedford in an envelope, with a letter, requesting that it be mailed here. (Signed) Postmaster.”
Here was a man so well-intentioned by nature, of such a kindly, sympathetic, generous disposition, so intelligent, so naturally capable mentally that, with proper training and properly placed in a vocation in which he could have used his talents, he would doubtless have become an excellent asset to society.