He was, in every respect, a most worthy man, truthful, honest, temperate, and, I need not say, frugal; and he had no bad habits, —perhaps he never had energy enough to acquire any. Nor did he lack the knack of the Yankee race. He could make a shoe, or build a house, or doctor a cow; but it never seemed to him, in this brief existence, worth while to do any of these things. He was an excellent angler, but he rarely fished; partly because of the shortness of days, partly on account of the uncertainty of bites, but principally because the trout brooks were all arranged lengthwise and ran over so much ground. But no man liked to look at a string of trout better than he did, and he was willing to sit down in a sunny place and talk about trout-fishing half a day at a time, and he would talk pleasantly and well too, though his wife might be continually interrupting him by a call for firewood.
I should not do justice to his own idea of himself if I did not add that he was most respectably connected, and that he had a justifiable though feeble pride in his family. It helped his self-respect, which no ignoble circumstances could destroy. He was, as must appear by this time, a most intelligent man, and he was a well-informed man; that is to say, he read the weekly newspapers when he could get them, and he had the average country information about Beecher and Greeley and the Prussian war ("Napoleon is gettin’ on’t, ain’t he?"), and the general prospect of the election campaigns. Indeed, he was warmly, or rather luke-warmly, interested in politics. He liked to talk about the inflated currency, and it seemed plain to him that his condition would somehow be improved if we could get to a specie basis. He was, in fact, a little troubled by the national debt; it seemed to press on him somehow, while his own never did. He exhibited more animation over the affairs of the government than he did over his own,—an evidence at once of his disinterestedness and his patriotism. He had been an old abolitionist, and was strong on the rights of free labor, though he did not care to exercise his privilege much. Of course he had the proper contempt for the poor whites down South. I never saw a person with more correct notions on such a variety of subjects. He was perfectly willing that churches (being himself a member), and Sunday-schools, and missionary enterprises should go on; in fact, I do not believe he ever opposed anything in his life. No one was more willing to vote town taxes and road-repairs and schoolhouses than he. If you could call him spirited at all, he was public-spirited.
And with all this he was never very well; he had, from boyhood, “enjoyed poor health.” You would say he was not a man who would ever catch anything, not even an epidemic; but he was a person whom diseases would be likely to overtake, even the slowest of slow fevers. And he was n’t a man to shake off anything. And yet sickness seemed to trouble him no more than poverty. He was not discontented; he never grumbled. I am not sure but he relished a “spell of sickness” in haying-time.