“Or that it was intended for a row-boat?”
Here was the time to appeal, to force a decision as to what constituted a row-boat.
“Perhaps it might be called a row-boat, sir,” I said abjectly.
“Or that, in direct opposition to my wishes and commands in forbidding you to have a boat, to spend your money foolishly and wickedly on a whim, you constructed one secretly in the woodshed, took out a part of the back partition, thus destroying property that did, not belong to you, and had the boat carted this morning to Logan’s Pond?” I was silent, utterly undone. Evidently he had specific information.... There are certain expressions that are, at times, more than mere figures of speech, and now my father’s wrath seemed literally towering. It added visibly to his stature.
“Hugh,” he said, in a voice that penetrated to the very corners of my soul, “I utterly fail to understand you. I cannot imagine how a son of mine, a son of your mother who is the very soul of truthfulness and honour—can be a liar.” (Oh, the terrible emphasis he put on that word!) “Nor is it as if this were a new tendency—I have punished you for it before. Your mother and I have tried to do our duty by you, to instil into you Christian teaching. But it seems wholly useless. I confess that I am at a less how to proceed. You seem to have no conscience whatever, no conception of what you owe to your parents and your God. You not only persistently disregard my wishes and commands, but you have, for many months, been leading a double life, facing me every day, while you were secretly and continually disobeying me. I shudder to think where this determination of yours to have what you desire at any price will lead you in the future. It is just such a desire that distinguishes wicked men from good.”
I will not linger upon a scene the very remembrance of which is painful to this day.... I went from my father’s presence in disgrace, in an agony of spirit that was overwhelming, to lock the door of my room and drop face downward on the bed, to sob until my muscles twitched. For he had, indeed, put into me an awful fear. The greatest horror of my boyish imagination was a wicked man. Was I, as he had declared, utterly depraved and doomed in spite of myself to be one?
There came a knock at my door—Ella with my supper. I refused to open, and sent her away, to fall on my knees in the darkness and pray wildly to a God whose attributes and character were sufficiently confused in my mind. On the one hand was the stern, despotic Monarch of the Westminster Catechism, whom I addressed out of habit, the Father who condemned a portion of his children from the cradle. Was I one of those who he had decreed before I was born must suffer the tortures of the flames of hell? Putting two and two together, what I had learned in Sunday school and gathered from parts of Dr. Pound’s sermons, and the intimation of my father that wickedness