Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/206

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174
MY LIFE AND LOVES.

He was an earnest Christian, I found, who had been converted and baptised in the Baptist Church; he had a fair tenor voice and led the choir; he swallowed all the idiocies of the incredible creed; but drew some valuable moral sanctions from it; he was a teetotaler and didn't smoke; a Nazarene, too, determined to keep chaste as he called a state of abstinence from women, and weekly indulgence in self-abuse which he tried to justify as inevitable.

The teaching of Jesus himself had little or no practical effect on him; he classed it all together as counsels of an impossible perfection, and like the vast majority of Americans, accepted a childish Pauline-German morality while despising the duty of forgiveness and scorning the Gospel of Love.

A few days after our first meeting, Willie proposed to me that I should lend him a thousand dollars and he would give me twenty-five per cent for the use of the money. When I exclaimed against the usurious rate, twelve per cent being the State limit, he told me he could lend a million dollars if he had it, at from three to five per cent a month on perfect security. "So you see," he wound up, "that I can easily afford to give you two hundred and fifty dollars a year for the use of your thousand: one can buy real estate here to pay fifty per cent a year; the country is only just beginning to be developed", and so forth and so on in wildest optimism: the end of it being that he got my thousand dollars, leaving me with barely five hundred, but as I could live in a good boarding house for four dollars a week, I reckoned that at the worst I had one carefree year before me and if Willie kept his promise, I would be free to do whatever I wanted to do for years to come.

It was written that I was to have another experience in Lawrence much more important than anything