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Page 127


This is the season of good resolutions,” said the
young man, in answer to Dr. Spooner's wish for a happy
new year. “Nominally,” replied the Doctor; “there is
something in the commencement of a new year that naturally
suggests thought of habits contracted or pampered
during the year that 's past, and, as we see them
clinging to us like vampires, sucking the marrow from
our moral or physical bones, we plant our feet with
something very like resolution, and say we will turn
over a new leaf. And we are honest in the determination,
and mean to stick to it; but, alas! with the waning
year resolution wanes, and we find that our promises,
like pie-crust, are very easily broken. Like a man full
of wine and meat disavowing a desire for victuals, so
we, with appetites satiated, for the nonce deem that appetite
is an easy thing to overcome; but we find that
we cannot throw it aside with our tobacco. It becomes
an importunate thing, that, like Banquo's ghost, obtrudes
itself in our hours of pleasure, and everywhere. It is
an ever-present thing. Memory battles with resolution,
and the diseased fancy clothes the banished with a
thousand fascinations, and we become its victim, till a
new year brings new resolutions, to be broken again in
after time. When a man leaves off a habit and resumes
it again,” continued the Doctor, “I am reminded of the
scripture where the evil one goes out of a man and
seeks rest in dry places, but, finding none, he returns to
his old apartments that have been cleaned up during
his absence, to follow the simplifying rule laid down by
my friend Dr. Sawyer, and the latter days of that man
are worse than his first. Habit and appetite once established,
they are about as hard to throw off as was the


Page 128
little old man of the sea, who volunteered as a neck-tie
for the renowned Sinbad. Stick to your resolution, my
young friend, for one month, and you will deserve a
medal as big as a griddle for your moral heroism.” —
“And did you ever find it thus hard?” the young man
inquired; “did you ever have habits thus hard to overcome?”
— “Did I?” repeated the Doctor, twitching at
his gloves nervously. “Who is there that has them not?
Habit takes a thousand forms, and he who rails the
loudest at you for using tobacco or wine may have a
habit of cormorantish appetite dragging him down in
another direction.” The Doctor went out, leaving the
young man standing with meditation in his eye and a
paper of silver-leaf tobacco in his hand, the open stove-door
before him.