“So,” thought he, “here am I, an honest old fellow,—I may say it, with all my faults; and one who shrinks from falsehood more than from fire; and I find that I, with my bearish temper, am actually driving those about me into it—teaching them to be crafty, tricky, and cowardly! I knew well enough that my gruffness plagued others, but I never saw how it tempted others until now; tempted them to meanness, I would say, for I have found a thousand times that an angry man stirreth up strife, and that a short word may begin a long quarrel. I am afraid that I have not thought enough on this matter. I’ve looked on bad temper as a very little sin, and I begin to suspect that it is a great one, both in God’s eyes and in the consequences that it brings. Let me see if I can reckon up its evils! It makes those miserable whom one would wish to make happy; it often, like an adverse gale, forces them to back, instead of steering straight for the port. It dishonours one’s profession, lowers one’s flag, makes the world mock at the religion which can leave a man as rough and rugged as a heathen savage. It’s directly contrary to the Word of God,—it’s wide as east from west of the example set before us! Yes, a furious temper is a very evil thing; I’d give my other leg to be rid of mine!” and in the warmth of his self-reproach the sailor struck his wooden one against the hearth with such violence as to make Alie start in terror that some fierce explosion was about to follow.
“Well, I’ve made up my mind as to its being an evil—a great evil,” continued Jonas, in his quiet meditation; “the next question is, how is the evil to be got rid of? There’s the pinch! It clings to one like one’s skin. It’s one’s nature,—how can one fight against nature? And yet, I take it, it’s the very business of faith to conquer our evil nature. As I read somewhere, any dead dog can float with the stream; it’s the living dog that swims against it. I mind the trouble I had about the wicked habit of swearing, when first I took to trying to serve God and leave off my evil courses. Bad words came to my mouth as natural as the very air that I breathed. What did I do to cure myself of that evil? Why, I resolved again and again, and found that my resolutions were always snapping like a rotten cable in a storm; and I was driven from my anchorage so often, that I almost began to despair. Then I prayed hard to be helped; and I said to myself, ’God helps those who help themselves, and maybe if I determine to do something that I should be sorry to do every time that an oath comes from my mouth, it would assist me to remember my duty.’ I resolved to break my pipe the first time that I swore; and I’ve never uttered an oath from that day to this, not even in my most towering passions! Now I’ll try the same cure again; not to punish a sin, but to prevent it. If I fly into a fury, I’ll break my pipe! There Jonas Colter, I give you fair warning!” and the old sailor smiled grimly to himself, and stirred the fire with an air of satisfaction.