Lest the instructed reader should wonder at a man’s using the term “dissipation” in a wilderness, it may be well to explain that, in common American parlance, “dissipation” has got to mean “drunkenness.” Perhaps half of the whole country, if told that a man, or a woman, might be exceedingly dissipated and never swallow anything stronger than water, would stoutly deny the justice of applying the word to such a person. This perversion of the meaning of a very common term has probably arisen from the circumstance that there is very little dissipation in the country that is not connected with hard drinking. A dissipated woman is a person almost unknown in America; or when the word is applied, it means a very different degree of misspending of time, from that which is understood by the use of the same reproach in older and more sophisticated states of society. The majority rules in this country, and with the majority excess usually takes this particular aspect; refinement having very little connection with the dissipation of the masses, anywhere.
The excuses of his companion, however, caused le Bourdon to muse, more than might otherwise have been the case, on Whiskey Centre’s condition. Apart from all considerations connected with the man’s own welfare, and the happiness of his family, there were those which were inseparable from the common safety, in the present state of the country. Boden was a man of much decision and firmness of character, and he was clear-headed as to causes and consequences. The practice of living alone had induced in him the habits of reflection; and the self-reliance produced by his solitary life, a life of which he was fond almost to a passion, caused him to decide warily, but to act promptly. As they descended the river together, therefore, he went over the whole of Gershom Waring’s case and prospects, with great impartiality and care, and settled in his own mind what ought to be done, as well as the mode of doing it. He kept his own counsel, however, discussing all sorts of subjects that were of interest to men in their situation, as they floated down the stream, avoiding any recurrence to this theme, which was possibly of more importance to them both, just then, than any other that could be presented.
He was a wight of high renown,
And thou art but of low degree;
’Tis pride that pulls the country down—
Then take thine auld cloak about thee.
The canoe did not reach the mouth of the river until near evening of the third day of its navigation. It was not so much the distance, though that was considerable, as it was the obstacles that lay in the way, which brought the travellers to the end of their journey at so late a period. As they drew nearer and nearer to the place where Gershom had left his wife and sister, le Bourdon detected in his companion signs of an interest in the welfare of the two last, as well as a certain feverish uneasiness lest all might not be well with them, that said something in favor of his heart, whatever might be urged against his prudence and care in leaving them alone in so exposed a situation.