Famous Americans of Recent Times eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 624 pages of information about Famous Americans of Recent Times.
gave some character to his countenance, it was curiously devoid of expression.  He had also the absent look of a man who either had no thoughts or was absorbed in thought; and he shuffled along on his enormous feet, looking neither to the right nor to the left.  There was always a certain look of the old mariner about him, though he had been fifty years an inhabitant of the town.  When he rode it was in the plainest, least comfortable gig in Philadelphia, drawn by an ancient and ill-formed horse, driven always by the master’s own hand at a good pace.  He chose still to live where he had lived for fifty years, in Water Street, close to the wharves, in a small and inconvenient house, darkened by tall storehouses, amid the bustle, the noise, and the odors of commerce.  His sole pleasure was to visit once a day a little farm which he possessed a few miles out of town, where he was wont to take off his coat, roll up his shirt-sleeves, and personally labor in the field and in the barn, hoeing corn, pruning trees, tossing hay, and not disdaining even to assist in butchering the animals which he raised for market.  It was no mere ornamental or experimental farm.  He made it pay.  All of its produce was carefully, nay, scrupulously husbanded, sold, recorded, and accounted for.  He loved his grapes, his plums, his pigs, and especially his rare breed of Canary-birds; but the people of Philadelphia had the full benefit of their increase,—­at the highest market rates.

Many feared, many served, but none loved this singular and lonely old man.  If there was among the very few who habitually conversed with him one who understood and esteemed him, there was but one; and he was a man of such abounding charity, that, like Uncle Toby, if he had heard that the Devil was hopelessly damned, he would have said, “I am sorry for it.”  Never was there a person more destitute than Girard of the qualities which win the affection of others.  His temper was violent, his presence forbidding, his usual manner ungracious, his will inflexible, his heart untender, his imagination dead.  He was odious to many of his fellow-citizens, who considered him the hardest and meanest of men.  He had lived among them for half a century, but he was no more a Philadelphian in 1830 than in 1776.  He still spoke with a French accent, and accompanied his words with a French shrug and French gesticulation.  Surrounded with Christian churches which he had helped to build, he remained a sturdy unbeliever, and possessed the complete works of only one man, Voltaire.  He made it a point of duty to labor on Sunday, as a good example to others.  He made no secret of the fact, that he considered the idleness of Sunday an injury to the people, moral and economical.  He would have opened his bank on Sundays, if any one would have come to it.  For his part, he required no rest, and would have none.  He never travelled.  He never attended public assemblies or amusements.  He had no affections to gratify, no friends to visit,

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Famous Americans of Recent Times from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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