J. H. (Joseph Holt) Ingraham.

Paul Perril, the merchant's son: or, The adventures of a New-England boy launched upon life online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (Joseph Holt) IngrahamPaul Perril, the merchant's son: or, The adventures of a New-England boy launched upon life → online text (page 1 of 24)
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The Yankee predelicti&n for wandering. -Some account of Paufs
parentage. A few passages touching ' gentility. 1 Paa.1 and
his brother.

New England is the great population nursery of the American con-
tinent. The young shoots which it produces annually, are reared with
an eye to transplanting, rather than for domestic growth. Of every
iseven juvenile plants five are sent off to be planted in the South and
West to thrive in Oregan or bear fruit in California. For a family
tof children born in the land of Pilgrims to remain there as men and
women within sight of 'the smoke of the paternal home, is an event
scarcely known. ' Where shtH I emigrate where shall I make my
fortune V is the first enquiry of the Yankee boy as he begins to dis-
cover a beard upon his lip.

Such was the question our hero, Paul Perril, addressed to himself
one sunshiny morning when he had scarcely reached his seventeenth
year. This was, it is trae, rather an advanced age for a spirited New
England youth to put this inquiry for the first time, inasmuch as they
are expected to begin to earn their Jiving by the time they enter their
' teens.' Indeed, two-tfeirds of the boys do -earn their bread and butter
at this early age. Cast an eye through the length and breadth of the
land of ' steady hsibits,' and for every man in business, you will find a
smart little fellow in his employ, smart, shrewd, and with all his eye-
teeth cut. Boys in Yankeedom aie men before they have yet gone
through the period of youth. They leap from their mother's lap right
into the bustle and activity of money-getting. They cast aside their
tops and balls to grasp the sterner tools of the laborer, mechanic and
farmer. Yankee boys are easily weaned from home. It is well it is
so, or there would be much unhappiness undergone, and many, many
bitter tears shed by the courageous little exiles from the domestic


Paal P'erril was a Yankee boy throughout. Us was frank ;md fear-
less in hb bearing, quick-wilted, shrewd and intelligent, lie possessed,.
moreover, a very generous nature, was kind and benevolent, a Little
roguish withal, and had a heart large enough to the whole
world within the pinions of his kindly feelings. His birth place was
in the valley of the Kennebec, one of the most beautitul regions of
New England. The town was a thriving business place, situated upon
the river bank, and eontained, besides a long street tilled with stores,,
several back streets lineo" with genteel dwelling-houses, shaded by
trees, and mostly having before them neat flower-beds, besides spacious
vegetable gardens extending far in the rear. The society was highly
respeelabl, that is, it consisted of thirty-one or more families wht>
Jived ' genteely.' By this vague term we mean, that they were the
families of merchants, lawyers, doetors and clergymen, and two or
three retired wealthy men ; that they had green blinds to their houses ;
that the houses were two stories in height; (for respectability never
occupies sjall abodes I) that they contained a handsome front parlor,
never used but two or three times in a year,, and which ' the children '
were never allowed to enter ; that the parlor held a piano-forte ; that
the daughters went to the boarding-school, and the boys to the acade-
my ; and lastly, that they, the said genteel families, visited each other
and no body else; for tho?e whom they did not visit were ' nobody-

One of the families of this exslusire caste of gentility had the good
fortune to produce our hero. Peter Peyril was a merchant, and by
virtue oJ his pursuit belonged to the upper ' thirty-oi^e.' If perchance
he had been a cabinet-maker he would not have belonged to this upper
crust, but would have taken his place with the uivder crust, albeit he-
might have been in heart and head, hands and feet,. &he very identical
Peter Peril, Merchant. There is, evidently, some profound and mys-
terious principle of gentility which, with all our observation,, we have
not yet been able to fathom, in buying a glass of rum and selling it
again by the ' gill ' across the counter to red-eyed topers. For our
part, though we may be singular In our notions, we thiwk there is
something much more genteel and elevating to manhood in taking a
rough board and skillfully shaping it by sawing and planing and glue-
ing and polishing it into an elegant book case, or a serviceable table.
We confess we would rather the hand that held the saw were ours than-
the hand that extended the gill of mm !

Mr. Perril's store was like all country stores. We would call them
'shops,' but this word has been dropped by country merchants and
bestowed upon the places where mechanics labor. Both are mere
words. We don't quarrel with them. Whether called shop or store
the thing is the same. The shop of the shoe-maker is a more respect-
able place than the ' store ' of the rumseller. But we are speaking of
by-gone days days when all store-keepers sold rum and thought no
evil of it, at least the world had not then began to lift up its voice
against the traffic. Now no ' merchant ' retails rum. No respecta-
ble ' store-keeper ' dare sell the fiery glass to the grovelling wretch
who dares to ask for it. Now the finger of scorn and displeasure


would be pointed at him. He, therefore, unless lost to all considera-
tions of respectability, all regard for public opinion, banishes it from
his ' store ' and by .so much has taken from this word its odium. But
iwenty years ago, the time \Vhen we take up our story, all 'merchants'
in country towns were cup-bearers to the town topers.

Peter Perril kept a store for the retailing of every thing under hea-
ven, from a paper of pins to a puncheon of brandy. He sold dun fish,
.he sold herring, and molasses, Hour and fans* fish-hooks and shingles,
brooms and ginger bread, corn and candy, nuts and raisins, tobacco
and cigars, domestic sheeting, calicos, tea, coffee, butter, lard, indigo,
mats and hats, boots arid mittens, scythes and apple-sauce, oats and
pepper sauce, besides rum, gin, sherry, sherbet, and every other sort oi
liquor for making men beasis. I

Mr. Perril kept out tf his store no ar-ricle that would turn him an
hone>t profit. He consulted the wants of the miscellaneous commun-
ity and judiciously supplied them. His gains were small in detail but
large in the aggregate. He was a thriving man. He owned his store
and enlarged it yearly by additions, now lo the side, now to the end,
now an additional story. Pie built a house and iurnished it, and held
up his head with the best. He always went lo meeting where he owned
a pew. He never kept open later than five minutes to twelve of Sat-
urday nights, for he had a discreet respect for the Sabbath] His wife
was a notable woman, skillful in household matters, and knew how to
bring up a family of children, of which she had no less than nine. It
was her aim to bring them up ' respectably,' that is, to move in gen-
teel society. She wished her sons to go to college, or be merchants,
and her daughters to marry ' among the first in the land.'

But although Peter made money, he had many bad debts; and a
family of nine children, seven of them boys., is not brought up and fed
and clothed and schooled by miracles. It was aa expensive family,
and became more so every year. The eldest son was sent to college,
and there had to be maintained ' genteely ;' for Mrs. Perril was quite
above suffering her Henry to keep a school to help out his expenses.
Clarissa Ann had to go to Bradford Academy to learn piano-playing
and other accomplishments. The next boy had to be fitted for Col-
lege at the Academy, and the rest had to go to costly schools, to keep
up the respectability of the Perrils.

N^w, what with tliese nine burdens upon his back, Peter, at each
year's end, found that, although he was making money, he wag not
growing rich. lie had fonr sons large enough to make their way in
the world, and two daughters that might have maintained themselves
by teaching or some other genteei pursuit, such as milinery or dress-
making. Yet these seven were ail on his hands. To support them
took all his ' profits.' He at length began to lose money in some oper-
ations, and then he opened his eyes and saw that it was time they
should hs'lp him in the matter of their own maintenance. He there-
fore boldly told his wife that the three boys who were at the Academy
should <ro to trades at once. This idea filled the mind of Mrs. Perril


with horror. The bare thought of one of her children becoming a
szschaoic was enough to throw her into a paroxysm of hysteria. She


remonstrated. Peter was firm. She plead for the ' respectability ' of
the family. * What will people say ?' was repeated by hes not les&
than a hundred times. Peter said lie cared not what people said ; he
was not able to maintain them, as they ate up and wore out all his
* profits.'

' Henry may go through College,' he added, * and Sam may enter if
he will help himself by keeping school. The rest of ths boys shall go
into stores or be bound o^it to trades !'

1 You once would not look at a trade for your son, Mr. Perril.'
' I was once a fool. I have grown wise. I was educated, as we have
been educating our boys, in the notion that all mechanical occupations
were low. I have learned better. I have found as good men who are
mechanics as those who are store-keepers; yes, I may say better. I
believe that the mechanics, as a class, are the most honest and upright.
TKeir pursuits are far more honorable than mine, be assured.'
' How can you talk so?'

' Because 1 feel so. In a word, I have resolved to make my boy-
useful, and my girls too. Clarissa shall come home and learn house-
keeping under your eye. It will save the girl, and make her fitter for a
good man's wife. Now, not another word. I am toiling day by day,,
only to spend. I want to get rich. 1 want to lay i*p something for
our old age. I dare not trust to my children! to help me then. Chil-
dren are api to forget the old people, or begrudgingly help them. No
no, Mrs. Perril; it is time we should take care of ourselves. I shall
save full four thousand dollars in the next five years by putting out my
boys to trades.'

' Don't put them to trades, then, but get them places, dear, in some
genteel counting-room in Boston. I do't see why they should go to
low trades.'

4 Low ! Go down into the street and step into Mr. thinning's cabi-
net shop, or Mr. Dover's jeweller's shop, and then go into my store
and see me up to my elbows in rum and flour, molasses and corn, and
say which is the neatest, cleanliest, most genteet employment. But
have your own way. I would make them useful and happy, therefore
I would make mechanics of them. The merchant is daily harroued
by doubts, fears, perplexities, losses, disappointments, and a thousand
other things that the mechanic knows nothing of. I will leave the
matter to the boys. Let them choose/

'I know none of them will consent to go to trades.'
'We will see. On Sunday after church, as they will all be at home,
I will have the matter brought up.'

On Sunday, at the time appointed, Mr. Perril called his sons about
him and made a speech in the spirit of the conversation just detailed.
He then asked them what they would choose? Three replied that
they wished to go into stores in Boston. The fourth, who was our
hero, said he much preferred to go to a trade. This preference, how-
ever, had to yield to the will of the majority ; for one and all said that.
it would be a disgrace to them as clerks in Boston to have it known
they had a brother who was a mechanic's apprentice. Paul smiled,
but made no remark. Mr. Perril frankly pronounced him the most


eensible boy of the three, and gave him permission to remain another
quarter at the Gardner Lyceum, where he was then at school.

During the week his brothers embarked for Boston in a Kennebec
coaster, under charge of their father, who was going up to buy goods.
He got one of them a chance in a retail silk store, another he obtained
a situation for in a thread and needle store in Hanover street, and c
third he was so fortunate as to find an opening for in a ' genteel ' dry-
goods store in Washington street.

In the meanwhile, Paul availed himself of his father's permission to
remain longer at the Lyceum, where he diligently applied himself to
his studies, and availed himself of all the privileges which that excel-
lent seminary affords the youlh who seeks a good, practical educa-

It was on a cheerful sunny morning, the last day of his quarter, as
he was standing near the Lyceum, waiting for his tutor to arrive, that
he pui to himself the inquiry in the first part of this chapter, viz :

* Where shall I emigrate ? Where shall I go to make my fortune ?
And what trade or pursuit shall I engage in ? This,' he added, ' is my
last day at school. I am now seventeen. The world is all before me
where to choose. I would rather be a mechanic than a store-keeper,
but father than either I would prefer being a seaman that I might travel
io far countries and see the wonders of the world!'

While he was thus meditating, the chapel bell called him into his re-
citation room, whither we will follow him in the next chapter, and see
what there transpired to shape his subsequent destiny.


Paul's thirst for adventure weakened.

After Paul and his classmates were seated in the recitation hall, the
tutor rose and remarked that he, that morning, had received a letter
from a gentleman in Boston, which he was requested, by the writer, to
read to the students. He then laid open to them the following epis-

BOSTON, Oct. 3d, 1827.

Sir I am about going to South America for the purpose of es-
tablishing a mercantile firm. I wish to take out'with me three or
four young men, from seventeen to nineteen years of age, as clerks.
I am willing to pay their passage out from Boston, and to allow
them a fair compensation for their services after we shall reach our

* If, sir, you chance to have in your institution any youths who would
Jike to embrace this opportunity for entering life and seeing something
of the world, you will confer on me a favor by communicating to them
my letter. If any are desirous of accompanying me, be so kind as to
say to them that the ship will sail on the fifteenth of the present month,


and that I would like to have them here by the 13th, that they may
make their preparations for the voyage.

' i refer you, sir, and the friends of such youths as may wish to gc

with me, to Colonel , of Boston, S C , Esq., of Salem.

and P T , of MarbJe'iead. You will oblige me by an early

reply. IJiave made this application to your institution, as I am anxious
to have young men of character and talent.

' I am, sir, your ob't serv't,

' To Prof. Benjamin Haley.

' Now, my young friends/ said the tutor, ' here is an opportunity
for some of you who are now just about to leave the institution. It
seems to me a very desirable one. Mr. Bedrick I know by reputation.
believe he is a highly respectable man ; and the gentlemen to whom
lie refers are individuals of the highest character. I think you would
be safe in embracing the proposition conveyed in the letter. If any of
you are inclined to accept of it, you will oblige me by giving me your
names by to-morrow, as I wish to reply then to Mr. Bedrick's let-
ter !'

Before the letter had been half read through by the tutor, Paul had
made up his mind to join the merchant on his expedition. The idea
of visiting at once a foreign land, awakened all his aspirations after
sight-seeing and adventure ; for Paul had not a little of the romantic
and adventurous in his temperament. Mr. Haley, therefore, had no
sooner done speaking than our hero rose in his seat and said, that he,
for one, would consent to go. ' I will see my father to-night,' he added,
* and I have no doubt that I shall be able to gain his consent.'

Three other youths, inspired by his example, and fired with the
same ambition for ' foreign travel/ instantly made known their wish 1&-
accept the proposal in the letter.

Their names were then taken down by the tutor, beginning with
Paul's; and were as follows Ferdinand Radworth, Henricus Hewitt,
and George Fairfax. Thus was this important s busine&s settled without
trouble or delay ; and the same night the tutor despatched his reply
to Mr. Jonathan Bedrick at Boston.

Paul lived but a short ride, in a neighboring town, from the Institu-
tion ; and the same evening made known to his father what he had
done, and then asked his consent. Mr. Perril was by no means ungrat-
ified that his son had thus promptly taken himself off his hands, and
was not backward in expressing his pleasure that he had, at length, re-
solved ' to make his way in the world !'

' And in a respectable profession, too ! That is every thing !' added
the maternal parent. ' 1 knew, Paul, you had too much pride ever to
consent to become a mechanic. You will go to South America, and
I dare say, discover a gold, or at the very least a silver mine, and come
home rich as CHBSUS, or the Wandering Jew. I shouldn't wondsr
if one day, you was able to buy the large house on the hill and ride in
your own carriage. 1 only want to see the day when I have a son thai
can look down on these proud Errickson's and Fawner's 1 Well, IT5


go to work and get your shirts and clothes ready and every thing nice
for you to start.'

The rumor that our hero was about to go to Soulh America, soon
reached his brothers in Boston, and not a little roused their envy ; for
to their minds a clerkship in a foreign country was a princely situation
compared with one in Washington or Hanover street in Boston.
4 Distance,' in this as in most other cases, ' lends enchantment to the

At length the day came for our hero to quit his paternal roof and
take his first step in the great world of action. He took a tearful fare-
well of his mother, and a firm one of his father; saw his trunk safely
Strapped behind, and then sprang into the waiting coach. The next
moment it was whirling with rattling axles through the village street
on the way to Boston.

The third morning our hero arrived there, and was set down at the
Commercial Coffee House, then kept by Mr. Merriarn, on the corner
of Milk and Kilby streets. It was were his father used to put up when
he came to the city to buy goods, and he had told Paul to stop there,
especially as he expected to be in town and to stop there befoie Paul's
vessel sailed.

Our hero, after being shown to a room in the third story began, for
the first time to feel himself fairly launched upon life. From this mo-
ment commences his Journal of rather History of his adventures, from
which the remainder of the narrative will be given. We have done
our part in introducing him to the reader. We now let him speak for



After 1 reached Boston, and found myself alone in my room at the
hotel, and had began to realize that [ was fairly adrift on the world. I
resolved that I would keep a journal of every thing that happened to
me or in any way concerned me. i immediately commenced it, and I
kept it partiy from memory, but chiefly from records made at the time,
until the end of the Adventures which are to follow. From this Jour-
nal I have written the veritable History which now challenges the kind
reader's attention. 1 wish him in the outset 10 understand and believe
that the narrative of events is truth and verity, not fiction ; for 1, Paul
Peril, am a man, not of straw, but of flesh and blood : and what I re-
cord T have seen, and of it bear a part.

My narrative now commences from the moment of my arrival in
Boston, on the morning of October tenth, 1^*27. After the servant hud
set down my trunk, which I remember was covered with hog's hnir, and
had a round top, the letters P. P. in an oval of brass tacks upon it, I
began to reflect complacently upon my new position. 1 was alone in
a large hotel, no father's eye, no mother's care, a trunk of clothing, a
new suit upon my back, and four dollars and thirty-four cents in specie


in my pocket. I was, too, in the great city of Boston. I was destined
to sail for South America. I was a clerk, in embryo, of some vast
Commercial House. These ideas, in themselves, sufficiently great,
were not a little amplified in imagination. I strutted up and down my
little fop-of-the-house-chamber, now casting an eye upon my trunk and
upon the brass nails that formed P. P., glittering evidences to the world
that the trunk belonged to me, Paul Perril, and now admiring my new
suit which Tim Lapboard, the tailor, had cut and basted, but which
my mother, by the aid of good Anny Makeman, the village seamstress,
had made. I felt my own importance, and jingled the dollars and
coppers in my pockets, and dented the floor with my high-heeled boots,

After 1 had sufficiently sacrificed to personal vanity and self, I was
struck with the terrific noises that surrounded the hotel, and at times
made the very walls shake. I looked out of my window and saw that
it was occasioned by the drays thundering over the stone pavements
but although I discovered the cause, I was none the less amazed bj
the uproar which nearly deafened me.

At length I bethought me I would go out and see Boston, which 1
had heard so much of, and also pay a visit to my three brothers, wh*
were clerks in stores here. So I opened my trunk and took out mj
hair-brush aud gave my head a Sunday-smoothing, and then brushe*
from my coat and trowsers every particle of lint, for I had an idei
that in Boston every body went looking as nice as a pin ; that only th*
country folks dressed plain and wore old and soiled clothes; bull sooi
learned that one must go into a large town to see what wretched gar
ments, what filthy wardrobes bipeds will hang upon their backs. Aftei
I had carefully performed my toilet and. let the corner of a blue siH
handkerchief stick a little way out of my coat pocket behind, I put or,
my cotton gloves and locking my door (for I had heard of robbers) ]
descended to the lower regions of the hotel. I at length reached the
front door where the stage had let me down half an hour before. Two
or three gentlemen were standing upon the steps, and in the street 1
beheld crowds as if all were hurrying to a fire, or an alarm had beer
given that a man was drowning. The number and hurry of the people
the throng of drays and carriages, the thunder and overpowing rumble
of the heavily laden wheels, the shuffle of feet, the confusion of voices,
both bewildered and alarmed me. I stood a few moments upon the
step, undecided and confused. I was afraid to venture up the street,
lest I should be knocked down by the hurrying people, and so I re-
solved till they should get past, not to stir. But I soon discovered thai
there was no end to the passing, either of people or drays, and I ther
made up my mind to venture to proceed. But I had not taken tw
steps before 1 recollected that I did n't know where my brothers' storei
were. So I re-entered the bar-room, and seeing a respectable, middle*
aged gentleman reading a paper, 1 advanced to him, and taking ofl
my hat I asked him very politely if he would inform me where the store
of Mr. Jeremiah Burns was, this being the tape and needle store wher<
my brother Josiah kept. He replied very gruffly that he did not knof
any such person, and that if I wanted a Directory I had better consult
a printed one.


What a Directory was I had not the least idea. I knew, however,
that the gentleman was very much displeased, and believing that I must
have said something wrong, 1 begged his pardon, adding, that if he
would be so obliging as to tell roe what a Directory was, I should be
very happy to consult it.

4 Look at that !' he answered, pointing with his finger to a well-
thumbed book hanging by a string alongside of the desk.

Online LibraryJ. H. (Joseph Holt) IngrahamPaul Perril, the merchant's son: or, The adventures of a New-England boy launched upon life → online text (page 1 of 24)