How To Do It
Edward Everett Hale

Part 3 out of 3

concerts. How little of your money's worth you get, if twenty times, as
the concert goes on, you must turn round to see if it was Mrs. Grundy who
sneezed, or Mr. Bundy; or if it was Mr. Golightly or Mrs. Heavyside who
came in too late at the door. And this attention to what is before you is
a matter of habit and discipline. You should determine that you will only
do in church what you go to church for, and adhere to your determination
until the habit is formed.

If you find, as a great many boys and girls do, that the sermon in church
comes in as a stumbling-block in the way of this resolution, that you
cannot fix your attention steadily upon it, I recommend that you try
taking notes of it. I have never known this to fail.

It is not necessary to do this in short-hand, though that is a very
charming accomplishment. Any one of you can teach himself how to write
short-hand, and there is no better practice than you can make for yourself
at church in taking notes of sermons.

But supposing you cannot write short-hand. Take a little book with stiff
covers, such as you can put in your pocket. The reporters use books of
ruled paper, of the length of a school writing-book, but only two or three
inches wide, and opening at the end. That is a very good shape. Then you
want a pencil or two cut sharp before you go to church. You will learn
more easily what you want to write than I can teach you. You cannot write
the whole, even of the shortest sentence, without losing part of the next.
But you can write the leading ideas, perhaps the leading words.

When you go home you will find you have a "skeleton," as it is called, of
the whole sermon. And, if you want to profit by the exercise, you may very
well spend an hour of the afternoon in writing out in neat and finished
form a sketch of some one division of it.

But, even if you do nothing with the notes after you come home, you will
find that they have made the sermon very short for you; that you have
been saved from sleepiness, and that you afterwards remember what the
preacher said, with unusual distinctness. You will also gradually gain a
habit of listening, with a view to remembering; noticing specially the
course and train of the argument or of the statement of any speaker.

Of course I need not say that in church you must be reverent in manner,
must not disturb others, and must not occupy yourself intentionally with
other people's dress or demeanor. If you really meant or wanted to do
these things, you would not be reading this paper.

But it may be worth while to say that even children and other young people
may remember to advantage that they form a very important part of the
congregation. If, therefore, the custom of worship where you are arranges
for responses to be read by the people, you, who are among the people, are
to respond. If it provides for congregational singing, and you can sing
the tune, you are to sing. It is certain that it requires the people all
to be in their places when the service begins. That you can do as well as
the oldest of them.

When the service is ended, do not hurry away. Do not enter into a wild and
useless competition with the other boys as to which shall leap off the
front steps the soonest upon the grass of the churchyard. You can arrange
much better races elsewhere.

When the benediction is over, wait a minute in your seat; do not look for
your hat and gloves till it is over, and then quietly and without jostling
leave the church, as you might pass from one room of your father's house
into another, when a large number of his friends were at a great party.
That is precisely the condition of things in which you are all together.

Observe, dear children, I am speaking only of habits of outside behavior
at church. I intentionally turn aside from speaking of the communion with
God, to which the church will help you, and the help from your Saviour
which the church will make real. These are very great blessings, as I
hope you will know. Do not run the risk of losing them by neglecting the
little habits of concentrated thought and of devout and simple behavior
which may make the hour in church one of the shortest and happiest hours
of the week.

Chapter XIII.

Life With Children.

There is a good deal of the life of boys and girls which passes when they
are with other boys and girls, and involves some difficulties with a great
many pleasures, all its own. It is generally taken for granted that if the
children are by themselves, all will go well. And if you boys and girls
did but know it, many very complimentary things are said about you in this
very matter. "Children do understand each other so well." "Children get
along so well with each other." "I feel quite relieved when the children
find some companions." This sort of thing is said behind the children's
backs at the very moment when the same children, quite strangers to each
other, are wishing that they were at home themselves, or at least that
these sudden new companions were.

There is a well-studied picture of this mixed-up life of boys and girls
with other boys and girls who are quite strangers to them in the end of
Miss Edgeworth's "Sequel to Frank,"--a book which I cannot get the young
people to read as much as I wish they would. And I do not at this moment
remember any other sketch of it in fiction quite so well managed, with so
little overstatement, and with so much real good sense which children may
remember to advantage.

Of course, in the first place, you are to do as you would be done by. But,
when you have said this, a question is still involved, for you do not know
for a moment how you would be done by; or if you do know, you know simply
that you would like to be let off from the company of these new-found
friends. "If I did as I would be done by," said Clara, "I should turn
round and walk to the other end of the piazza, and I should leave the
whole party of these strange girls alone. I was having a very good time
without them, and I dare say they would have a better time without me. But
papa brought me to them, and said their father was in college with him,
and that he wanted that we should know each other. So I could not do, in
that case, exactly as I would be done by without displeasing papa, and
that would not be doing to him at all as I would be done by."

The English of all this is, my dear Clara, that in that particular
exigency on the piazza at Newbury you had a nice book, and you would have
been glad to be left alone; nay, at the bottom of your heart, you would be
glad to be left alone a good deal of your life. But you do not want to be
left alone all your life. And if your father had taken you to Old Point
Comfort for a month, instead of Newbury, and you were as much a stranger
to the ways there as this shy Lucy Percival is to our Northern ways at
Newbury, you would be very much obliged to any nice Virginian girl who
swallowed down her dislike of Yankees in general, and came and welcomed
you as prettily as, in fact, you did the Percivals when your father
brought you to them. The doing as you would be done by requires a study of
all the conditions, not of the mere outside accident of the moment.

The direction familiarly given is that we should meet strangers half-way.
But I do not find that this wholly answers. These strangers may be
represented by globules of quicksilver, or, indeed, of water, on a marble
table. Suppose you pour out two little globules of quicksilver at each of
two points /. ./ like these two. Suppose you make the globules just so
large that they meet half-way, thus, /OO/. At the points where they
touch they only touch. It even seems as if there were a little repulsion,
so that they shrink away from each other. But, if you will enlarge one of
the drops never so little, so that it shall meet the other a very little
beyond half-way, why, the two will gladly run together into one, and will
even forget that they ever have been parted. That is the true rule for
meeting strangers. Meet them a little bit more than half-way. You will
find in life that the people who do this are the cheerful people, and
happy, who get the most out of society, and, indeed, are everywhere prized
and loved. All this is worth saying in a book published in Boston, because
New-Englanders inherit a great deal of the English shyness,--which the
French call "mauvaise honte," or "bad shame,"--and they need to be
cautious particularly to meet strangers a little more than half-way.
Boston people, in particular, are said to suffer from the habits of
"distance" or "reserve."

"But I am sure I do not know what to say to them," says Robert, who with a
good deal of difficulty has been made to read this paper thus far. My dear
Bob, have I said that you must talk to them? I knew you pretended that you
could not talk to people, though yesterday, when I was trying to get my
nap in the hammock, I certainly heard a great deal of rattle from somebody
who was fixing his boat with Clem Waters in the woodhouse. But I have
never supposed that you were to sit in agreeable conversation about the
weather, or the opera, with these strange boys and girls. Nobody but prigs
would do that, and I am glad to say you are not a prig. But if you were
turned in on two or three boys as Clara was on the Percival girls, a good
thing to say would be, "Would you like to go in swimming?" or "How would
you like to see us clean our fish?" or "I am going up to set snares for
rabbits; how would you like to go?" Give them a piece of yourself. That is
what I mean by meeting more than half-way. Frankly, honorably, without
unfair reserve,--which is to say, like a gentleman,--share with these
strangers some part of your own life which makes you happy. Clara, there,
will do the same thing. She will take these girls to ride, or she will
teach them how to play "copack," or she will tell them about her play of
the "Sleeping Beauty," and enlist some of them to take parts. This is what
I mean by meeting people more than half-way.

It may be that some of the chances of life pitchfork in upon you and your
associates a bevy of little children smaller than yourselves, whom you
are expected to keep an eye upon. This is a much severer trial of your
kindness, and of your good sense also, than the mere introduction to
strange boys and girls of your own age. Little children seem very
exacting. They are not so to a person who understands how to manage
them. But very likely you do not understand, and, whether you do or do
not, they require a constant eye. You will find a good deal to the point
in Jonas's directions to Rollo, and in Beechnut's directions to those
children in Vermont; and perhaps in what Jonas and Beechnut did with the
boys and girls who were hovering round them all the time you will find
more light than in their directions. Children, particularly little
children, are very glad to be directed, and to be kept even at work, if
they are in the company of older persons, and think they are working with
them. Jonas states it thus: "Boys will do any amount of work if there is
somebody to plan for them, and they will like to do it." If there is any
undertaking of an afternoon, and you find that there is a body of the
younger children who want to be with you who are older, do not make them
and yourselves unhappy by rebuking them for "tagging after" you. Of
course they tag after you. At their age you were glad of such improving
company as yours is. It has made you what you are. Instead of scolding
them, then, just avail yourselves of their presence, and make the
occasion comfortable to them, by giving them some occupation for their
hands. See how cleverly Fanny is managing down on the beach with those
four little imps. Fanny really wants to draw, and she has her
water-colors, and Edward Holiday has his and is teaching her. And these
four children from the hotel have "tagged" down after her. You would say
that was too bad, and you would send them home, I am afraid. Fanny has
not said any such thing. She has "accepted the position," and made
herself queen of it, as she is apt to do. She showed Reginald, first of
all, how to make a rainbow of pebbles,--violet pebbles, indigo pebbles,
blue pebbles, and so on to red ones. She explained that it had to be
quite large so as to give the good effect. In a minute Ellen had the idea
and started another, and then little Jo began to help Ellen, and Phil to
help Rex. And there those four children have been tramping back and forth
over the beach for an hour, bringing and sorting and arranging colored
pebbles, while Edward and Fanny have gone on quietly with their drawing.

In short, the great thing with children, as with grown people, is to give
them something to do. You can take a child of two years on your knee,
while there is reading aloud, so that the company hopes for silence. Well,
if you only tell that child to be still, he will be wretched in one
minute, and in two will be on the floor and rushing wildly all round the
room. But if you will take his little plump hand and "pat a cake" it on
yours, or make his little fat fingers into steeples or letters or rabbits,
you can keep him quiet without saying a single word for half an hour. At
the end of the most tiresome railway journey, when everybody in the car is
used up, the children most of all, you can cheer up these poor tired
little things who have been riding day and night for six days from
Pontchatrain, if you will take out a pair of scissors and cut out cats and
dogs and dancing-girls from the newspaper or from the back of a letter,
and will teach them how to parade them along on the velvet of the car.
Indeed, I am not quite sure but you will entertain yourself as much as
any of them.

In any acting of charades, any arrangement of _tableaux vivans_, or
similar amusements, you will always find that the little children are well
pleased, and, indeed, are fully satisfied, if they also can be pressed
into the service as "slaves" or "soldiers," or, as the procession-makers
say, "citizens generally," or what the stage-managers call
super-numeraries. They need not be intrusted with "speaking parts"; it is
enough for them to know that they are recognized as a part of the company.

I do not think that I enjoy anything more than I do watching a birthday
party of children who have known each other at a good Kinder-Garten school
like dear Mrs. Heard's. Instead of sitting wearily around the sides of the
room, with only such variations as can be rendered by a party of rude boys
playing tag up and down the stairs and in the hall, these children, as
soon as four of them arrive, begin to play some of the games they have
been used to playing at school, or branch off into other games which
neither school nor recess has all the appliances for. This is because
these children are trained together to associate with each other. The
misfortune of most schools is that, to preserve the discipline, the
children are trained to have nothing to do with each other, and it is only
at recess, or in going and coming, that they get the society which is the
great charm and only value of school life. In college, or in any good
academy, things are so managed that young men study together when they
choose; and there is no better training. In any way you manage it, bring
that about. If the master will let you and Rachel sit on the garden steps
while you study the Telemachus,--or if you, Robert and Horace, can go up
into the belfry and work out the Algebra together, it will be better for
the Telemachus, better for the Algebra, and much better for you.

Chapter XIV.

Life With Your Elders.

Have you ever read Amyas Leigh? Amyas Leigh is an historical novel,
written by Charles Kingsley, an English author. His object, or one of his
objects, was to extol the old system of education, the system which
trained such men as Walter Raleigh and Philip Sidney.

The system was this. When a boy had grown up to be fourteen or fifteen
years old, he was sent away from home by his father to some old friend of
his father, who took him into his train or company for whatever service or
help he could render. And so, of a sudden, the boy found himself
constantly in the company of men, to learn, as he could, what they were
doing, and to become a man himself under their contagion and sympathy.

We have abandoned this system. We teach boys and girls as much from books
as we can, and we give them all the fewer chances to learn from people or
from life.

None the less do the boys and girls meet men and women. And I think it is
well worth our while, in these papers, to see how much good and how much
pleasure they can get from the companionship.

I reminded you, in the last chapter, of Jonas and Beechnut's wise advice
about little children. Do you remember what Jonas told Rollo, when Rollo
was annoyed because his father would not take him to ride? That
instruction belongs to our present subject. Rollo was very fond of riding
with his father and mother, but he thought he did not often get invited,
and that, when he invited himself, he was often refused. He confided in
Jonas on the subject. Jonas told him substantially two things: First, that
his father would not ask him any the more often because he teased him for
an invitation. The teazing was in itself wrong, and did not present him in
an agreeable light to his father and mother, who wanted a pleasant
companion, if they wanted any. This was the first thing. The second was
that Rollo did not make himself agreeable when he did ride. He soon wanted
water to drink. Or he wondered when they should get home. Or he complained
because the sun shone in his eyes. He made what the inn-keeper called "a
great row generally," and so when his father and mother took their next
ride, if they wanted rest and quiet, they were very apt not to invite him.
Rollo took the hint. The next time he had an invitation to ride, he
remembered that he was the invited party, and bore himself accordingly. He
did not "pitch in" in the conversation. He did not obtrude his own
affairs. He answered when he was spoken to, listened when he was not
spoken to, and found that he was well rewarded by attending to the things
which interested his father and mother, and to the matters he was
discussing with her. And so it came about that Rollo, by not offering
himself again as captain of the party, became a frequent and a favorite

Now in that experience of Rollo's there is involved a good deal of the
philosophy of the intercourse between young people and their elders. Yes,
I know what you are saying, Theodora and George, just as well as if I
heard you. You are saying that you are sure you do not want to go among
the old folks,--certainly you shall not go if you are not wanted. But I
wish you to observe that sometimes you must go among them, whether you
want to or not; and if you must, there are two things to be brought
about,--first, that you get the utmost possible out of the occasion; and,
second, that the older people do. So, if you please, we will not go into a
huff about it, but look the matter in the face, and see if there is not
some simple system which governs the whole.

Do you remember perhaps, George, the first time you found out what good
reading there was in men's books,--that day when you had sprained your
ankle, and found Mayne Reid palled a little bit,--when I brought you
Lossing's Field-Book of the Revolution, as you sat in the wheel-chair, and
you read away upon that for hours? Do you remember how, when you were
getting well, you used to limp into my room, and I let you hook down
books with the handle of your crutch, so that you read the English Parrys
and Captain Back, and then got hold of my great Schoolcraft and Catlin,
and finally improved your French a good deal, before you were well, on the
thirty-nine volumes of Garnier's "Imaginary Voyages "? You remember that?
So do I. That was your first experience in grown-up people's books,--books
that are not written down to the supposed comprehension of children. Now
there is an experience just like that open to each of you, Theodora and
George, whenever you will choose to avail yourselves of it in the society
of grown-up people, if you will only take that society simply and
modestly, and behave like the sensible boy and girl that you really are.

Do not be tempted to talk among people who are your elders. Those horrible
scrapes that Frank used to get into, such as Harry once got into, arose,
like most scrapes in this world, from their want of ability to hold their
tongues. Speak when you are spoken to, not till then, and then get off
with as little talk as you can. After the second French revolution, my
young friend Walter used to wish that there might be a third, so that he
might fortunately be in the gallery of the revolutionary convention just
when everything came to a dead lock; and he used to explain to us, as we
sat on the parallel bars together at recess, how he would just spring over
the front of the gallery, swing himself across to the canopy above the
Speaker's seat, and slide down a column to the Tribune, there "where the
orators speak, you know," and how he would take advantage of the surprise
to address them in their own language; how he would say "_FranASec.ais_,--_mes
frA"res_" (which means, Frenchmen,--brothers); and how, in such strains of
burning eloquence, he would set all right so instantaneously that he would
be proclaimed Dictator, placed in a carriage instantly, and drawn by an
adoring and grateful people to the Palace of the Tuileries, to live there
for the rest of his natural life. It was natural for Walter to think he
could do all that if he got the chance. But I remember, in planning it
out, he never got much beyond "_FranASec.ais,_--_mes frA"res_" and in forty
years this summer, in which time four revolutions have taken place in
France, Walter has never found the opportunity. It is seldom, very seldom,
that in a mixed company it is necessary for a boy of sixteen, or a girl of
fifteen, to get the others out of a difficulty. You may burn to interrupt,
and to cry out "_FranASec.ais,_--_mes frA"res_" but you had better bite your
tongue, and sit still. Do not explain that Rio Janeiro is the capital of
Brazil. In a few minutes it will appear that they all knew it, though they
did not mention it, and, by your waiting, you will save yourself horrible

Meanwhile you are learning things in the nicest way in the world. Do not
you think that Amyas Leigh enjoyed what he learned of Guiana and the
Orinoco River much more than you enjoy all you have ever learned of it?
Yes. He learned it all by going there in the company of Walter Raleigh and
sundry other such men. Suppose, George, that you could get the engineers,
Mr. Burnell and Mr. Philipson, to take you with them when they run the
new railroad line, this summer, through the passes of the Adirondack
Mountains. Do you not think you shall enjoy that more even than reading
Mr. Murray's book, far more than studying levelling and surveying in the
first class at the High School. Get a chance to carry chain for them, if
you can. No matter if you lose at school two medals, three diplomas, and
four double promotions by your absence. Come round to me some afternoon,
and I will tell you in an hour all the school-boys learned while you were
away in the mountains; all, I mean, that you cannot make up in a well-used
month after your return.

And please to remember this, all of you, though it seems impossible.
Remember it as a fact, even if you cannot account for it, that though we
all seem so old to you, just as if we were dropping into our graves, we do
not, in practice, feel any older than we did when we were sixteen. True,
we have seen the folly of a good many things which you want to see the
folly of. We do not, therefore, in practice, sit on the rocks in the spray
quite so near to the water as you do; and we go to bed a little earlier,
even on moonlight nights. This is the reason that, when the whole merry
party meet at breakfast, we are a little more apt to be in our places
than--some young people I know. But, for all that, we do not feel any
older than we did when we were sixteen. We enjoy building with blocks as
well, and we can do it a great deal better; we like the "Arabian Nights"
just as well as we ever did; and we can laugh at a good charade quite as
loud as any of you can. So you need not take it on yourselves to suppose
that because you are among "old people,"--by which you mean married
people,--all is lost, and that the hours are to be stupid and forlorn. The
best series of parties, lasting year in and out, that I have ever known,
were in Worcester, Massachusetts, where old and young people associated
together more commonly and frequently than in any other town I ever
happened to live in, and where, for that very reason, society was on the
best footing. I have seen a boy of twelve take a charming lady, three
times his age, down Pearl Street on his sled. And I have ridden in a
riding party to Paradise with twenty other horsemen and with twenty-one
horsewomen, of whom the youngest, Theodora, was younger than you are, and
quite as pretty, and the oldest very likely was a judge on the Supreme
Bench. I will not say that she did not like to have one of the judges ride
up and talk with her quite as well as if she had been left to Ferdinand
Fitz-Mortimer. I will say that some of the Fitz-Mortimer tribe did not
ride as well as they did ten years after.

Above all, dear children, work out in life the problem or the method by
which you shall be a great deal with your father and your mother. There is
no joy in life like the joy you can have with them. Fun or learning,
sorrow or jollity, you can share it with them as with nobody beside. You
are just like your father, Theodora, and you, George, I see your mother's
face in you as you stand behind the bank counter, and I wonder what you
have done with your curls. I say you are just like. I am tempted to say
you are the same. And you can and you will draw in from them notions and
knowledges, lights on life, and impulses and directions which no books
will ever teach you, and which it is a shame to work out from long
experience, when you can--as you can--have them as your birthright.

Chapter XV.

Habits of Reading.

I have devoted two chapters of this book to the matter of Reading,
speaking of the selection of books and of the way to read them. But since
those papers were first printed, I have had I know not how many nice notes
from young people, in all parts of this land, asking all sorts of
additional directions. Where the matter has seemed to me private or local,
I have answered them in private correspondence. But I believe I can bring
together, under the head of "Habits of Heading," some additional notes,
which will at least reinforce what has been said already, and will perhaps
give clearness and detail.

All young people read a good deal, but I do not see that a great deal
comes of it. They think they have to read a good many newspapers and a
good many magazines. These are entertaining,--they are very entertaining.
But it is not always certain that the reader gets from them just what he
needs. On the other hand, it is certain that people who only read the
current newspapers and magazines get very little good from each other's
society, because they are all fed with just the same intellectual food.
You hear them repeat to each other the things they have all read in the
"Daily Trumpet," or the "Saturday Woodpecker." In these things, of
course, there can be but little variety, all the Saturday Woodpeckers of
the same date being very much like each other. When, therefore, the people
in the same circle meet each other, their conversation cannot be called
very entertaining or very improving, if this is all they have to draw
upon. It reminds one of the pictures in people's houses in the days of
"Art Unions." An Art Union gave you, once a year, a very cheap engraving.
But it gave the same engraving to everybody. So, in every house you went
to, for one year, you saw the same men dancing on a flat-boat. Then, a
year after, you saw Queen Mary signing Lady Jane Grey's death-warrant. She
kept signing it all the time. You might make seventeen visits in an
afternoon. Everywhere you saw her signing away on that death-warrant. You
came to be very tired of the death-warrant and of Queen Mary. Well, that
is much the same way in which seventeen people improve each other, who
have all been reading the "Daily Trumpet" and the "Saturday Woodpecker,"
and have read nothing beside.

I see no objection, however, to light reading, desultory reading, the
reading of newspapers, or the reading of fiction, if you take enough
ballast with it, so that these light kites, as the sailors call them, may
not carry your ship over in some sudden gale. The principle of sound
habits of reading, if reduced to a precise rule, comes out thus: That for
each hour of light reading, of what we read for amusement, we ought to
take another hour of reading for instruction. Nor have I any objection to
stating the same rule backward; for that is a poor rule that will not
work both ways. It is, I think, true, that for every hour we give to
grave reading, it is well to give a corresponding hour to what is light
and amusing.

Now a great deal more is possible under this rule than you boys and girls
think at first. Some of the best students in the world, who have advanced
its affairs farthest in their particular lines, have not in practice
studied more than two hours a day. Walter Scott, except when he was goaded
to death, did not work more. Dr. Bowditch translated the great _MA(C)canique
CA(C)leste_ in less than two hours' daily labor. I have told you already of
George Livermore. But then this work was regular as the movement of the
planets which Dr. Bowditch and La Place described. It did not stop for
whim or by accident, more than Jupiter stops in his orbit because a
holiday comes round.

"But what in the world do you suppose Mr. Hale means by 'grave reading,'
or 'improving reading'? Does he mean only those stupid books that 'no
gentleman's library should be without'? I suppose somebody reads them at
some time, or they would not be printed; but I am sure I do not know when
or where or how to begin." This is what Theodora says to Florence, when
they have read thus far.

Let us see. In the first place, you are not, all of you, to attempt
everything. Do one thing well, and read one subject well; that is much
better than reading ten subjects shabbily and carelessly. What is your
subject? It is not hard to find that out. Here you are, living perhaps on
the very road on which the English troops marched to Lexington and
Concord. In one of the beams of the barn there is a hole made by a
musket-ball, which was fired as they retreated. How much do you know of
that march of theirs? How much have you read of the accounts that were
written of it the next day? Have you ever read Bancroft's account of it?
or Botta's? or Frothingham's? There is a large book, which you can get at
without much difficulty, called the "American Archives." The Congress of
this country ordered its preparation, at immense expense, that you and
people like you might be able to study, in detail, the early history in
the original documents, which are reprinted there. In that book you will
find the original accounts of the battle as they were published in the
next issues of the Massachusetts newspapers. You will find the official
reports written home by the English officers. You will find the accounts
published by order of the Provincial Congress. When you have read these,
you begin to know something about the battle of Lexington.

Then there are such books as General Heath's Memoirs, written by people
who were in the battle, giving their account of what passed, and how it
was done. If you really want to know about a piece of history which
transpired in part under the windows of your house, you will find you can
very soon bring together the improving and very agreeable solid reading
which my rule demands.

Perhaps you do not live by the road that leads to Lexington. Everybody
does not. Still you live somewhere, and you live next to something. As Dr.
Thaddeus Harris said to me (Yes, Harry, the same who made your
insect-book), "If you have nothing else to study, you can study the mosses
and lichens hanging on the logs on the woodpile in the woodhouse." Try
that winter botany. Observe for yourself, and bring together the books
that will teach you the laws of growth of those wonderful plants. At the
end of a winter of such careful study I believe you could have more
knowledge of God's work in that realm of nature than any man in America
now has, if I except perhaps some five or six of the most distinguished

I have told you about making your own index to any important book you
read. I ought to have advised you somewhere not to buy many books. If you
are reading in books from a library, never, as you are a decently
well-behaved boy or girl, never make any sort of mark upon a page which is
not your own. All you need, then, for your index, is a little page of
paper, folded in where you can use it for a book-mark, on which you will
make the same memorandum which you would have made on the fly-leaf, were
the book your own. In this case you will keep these memorandum pages
together in your scrap-book, so that you can easily find them. And if, as
is very likely, you have to refer to the book afterward, in another
edition, you will be glad if your first reference has been so precise that
you can easily find the place, although the paging is changed. John
Locke's rule is this: Refer to the page, with another reference to the
number of pages in the volume. At the same time tell how many volumes
there are in the set you use. You would enter Charles II.'s escape from
England, as described in the Pictorial History of England, thus:--

"Charles II. escapes after battle of Worcester.

"Pictorial Hist. Eng. 391/855, Vol 3/4."

You will have but little difficulty in finding your place in any
edition of the Pictorial History, if you have made as careful a
reference as this is.

My own pupils, if I may so call the young friends who read with me, will
laugh when they see the direction that you go to the original authorities
whenever you can do so. For I send them on very hard-working tramps, that
they may find the original authorities, and perhaps they think that I am a
little particular about it. Of course, it depends a good deal on what your
circumstances are, whether you can go to the originals. But if you are
near a large library, the sooner you can cultivate the habit of looking in
the original writers, the more will you enjoy the study of history, of
biography, of geography, or of any other subject. It is stupid enough to
learn at school, that the Bay of God's Mercy is in N. Latitude 73A deg., W.
Longitude 117A deg.. But read Captain McClure's account of the way the Resolute
ran into the Bay of God's Mercy, and what good reason he had for naming it
so, and I think you will never again forget where it is, or look on the
words as only the answer to a stupid "map question."

I was saying very much what I have been writing, last Thursday, to Ella,
with whom I had a nice day's sail; and she, who is only too eager about
her reading and study, said she did not know where to begin. She felt her
ignorance so terribly about every separate thing that she wanted to take
hold everywhere. She had been reading Lothair, and found she knew nothing
about Garibaldi and the battle of Aspramonte. Then she had been talking
about the long Arctic days with a traveller, and she found she knew
nothing about the Arctic regions. She was ashamed to go to a concert, and
not know the difference between the lives of Mozart and of Mendelssohn. I
had to tell Ella, what I have said to you, that we cannot all of us do all
things. Far less can we do them all at once. I reminded her of the rule
for European travelling,--which you may be sure is good,--that it is
better to spend three days in one place than one day each in three places.
And I told Ella that she must apply the same rule to subjects. Take these
very instances. If she really gets well acquainted with Mendelssohn's
life,--feels that she knows him, his habit of writing, and what made him
what he was,--she will enjoy every piece of his music she ever hears with
ten times the interest it had for her before. But if she looks him out in
a cyclopA|dia and forgets him, and looks out Mercadante and forgets him,
and finally mixes up Mozart and Mercadante and Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer,
because all four of these names begin with M, why, she will be where a
great many very nice boys and girls are who go to concerts, but where as
sensible a girl as Ella does not want to be, and where I hope none of you
want to be for whom I am writing.

But perhaps this is more than need be said after what is in Chapters V.
and VI. Now you may put down this book and read for recreation. Shall it
be the "Bloody Dagger," or shall it be the "Injured Grandmother"?

Chapter XVI.

Getting Ready.

When I have written a quarter part of this paper the horse and wagon will
be brought round, and I shall call for Ferguson and Putnam to go with me
for a swim. When I stop at Ferguson's house, he will himself come to the
door with his bag of towels,--I shall not even leave the wagon,--Ferguson
will jump in, and then we shall drive to Putnam's. When we come to
Putnam's house, Ferguson will jump out and ring the bell. A girl will come
to the door, and Ferguson will ask her to tell Horace that we have come
for him. She will look a little confused, as if she did not know where he
was, but she will go and find him. Ferguson and I will wait in the wagon
three or four minutes and then Horace will come. Ferguson will ask him if
he has his towels, and he will say, "O no, I laid them down when I was
packing my lunch," and he will run and get them. Just as we start, he
will ask me to excuse him just a moment, and he will run back for a letter
his father wants him to post as we come home. Then we shall go and have a
good swim together. [Footnote: P. S.--We have been and returned, and all
has happened substantially as I said.]

Now, in the regular line of literature made and provided for young people,
I should go on and make out that Ferguson, simply by his habit of
promptness and by being in the right place when he is needed, would rise
rapidly to the highest posts of honor and command, becoming indeed Khan of
Tartary, or President of the United States, as the exigencies and costume
of the story might require. But Horace, merely from not being ready on
occasion, would miserably decline, and come to a wretched felon's end;
owing it, indeed, only to the accident of his early acquaintance with
Ferguson, that, when the sheriff is about to hang him, a pardon arrives
just in time from him (the President). But I shall not carry out for you
any such horrible picture of these two good fellows' fates. In my
judgment, one of these results is almost as horrible as is the other. I
will tell you, however, that the habit of being ready is going to make for
Ferguson a great deal of comfort in this world, and bring him in a great
deal of enjoyment. And, on the other hand, Horace the Unready, as they
would have called him in French history, will work through a great deal of
discomfort and mortification before he rids himself of the habit which I
have illustrated for you. It is true that he has a certain rapidity, which
somebody calls "shiftiness," of resolution and of performance, which gets
him out of his scrapes as rapidly as he gets in. But there is a good deal
of vital power lost in getting in and getting out, which might be spent to
better purpose,--for pure enjoyment, or for helping other people to pure

The art of getting ready, then, shall be the closing subject of this
little series of papers. Of course, in the wider sense, all education
might be called the art of getting ready, as, in the broadest sense of
all, I hope all you children remember every day that the whole of this
life is the getting ready for life beyond this. Bear that in mind, and you
will not say that this is a trivial accomplishment of Ferguson's, which
makes him always a welcome companion, often and often gives him the power
of rendering a favor to somebody who has forgotten something, and, in
short, in the twenty-four hours of every day, gives to him "all the time
there is." It is also one of those accomplishments, as I believe, which
can readily be learned or gained, not depending materially on temperament
or native constitution. It comes almost of course to a person who has his
various powers well in hand,--who knows what he can do, and what he cannot
do, and does not attempt more than he can perform. On the other hand, it
is an accomplishment very difficult of acquirement to a boy who has not
yet found what he is good for, who has forty irons in the fire, and is
changing from one to another as rapidly as the circus-rider changes, or
seems to change, from Mr, Pickwick to Sam Weller.

Form the habit, then, of looking at to-morrow as if you were the master
of to-morrow, and not its slave. "There's no such word as fail!" That is
what Richelieu says to the boy, and in the real conviction that you can
control such circumstances as made Horace late for our ride, you have the
power that will master them. As Mrs. Henry said to her husband, about
leaping over the high bar,--"Throw your heart over, John, and your heels
will go over." That is a very fine remark, and it covers a great many
problems in life besides those of circus-riding. You are, thus far, master
of to-morrow. It has not outflanked you, nor circumvented you at any
point. You do not propose that it shall. What, then, is the first thing to
be sought by way of "getting ready," of preparation?

It is vivid imagination of to-morrow. Ask in advance, What time does the
train start? _Answer_, "Seven minutes of eight." What time is breakfast?
_Answer_, "For the family, half past seven." Then I will now, lest it be
forgotten, ask Mary to give me a cup of coffee at seven fifteen; and, lest
she should forget it, I will write it on this card, and she may tuck the
card in her kitchen-clock case. What have I to take in the train?
_Answer_, "Father's foreign letters, to save the English mail, my own
'Young Folks' to be bound, and Fanny's breast-pin for a new pin." Then I
hang my hand-bag now on the peg under my hat, put into it the "Young
Folks" and the breast-pin box, and ask father to put into it the English
letters when they are done. Do you not see that the more exact the work of
the imagination on Tuesday, the less petty strain will there be on memory
when Wednesday comes? If you have made that preparation, you may lie in
bed Wednesday morning till the very moment which shall leave you time
enough for washing and dressing; then you may take your breakfast
comfortably, may strike your train accurately, and attend to your
commissions easily. Whereas Horace, on his method of life, would have to
get up early to be sure that his things were brought together, in the
confusion of the morning would not be able to find No. 11 of the "Young
Folks," in looking for that would lose his breakfast, and afterwards would
lose the train, and, looking back on his day, would find that he rose
early, came to town late, and did not get to the bookbinder's, after all.
The relief from such blunders and annoyance comes, I say, in a lively
habit of imagination, forecasting the thing that is to be done. Once
forecast in its detail, it is very easy to get ready for it.

Do you not remember, in "Swiss Family Robinson," that when they came to a
very hard pinch for want of twine or scissors or nails, the mother,
Elizabeth, always had it in her "wonderful bag"? I was young enough when I
first read "Swiss Family" to be really taken in by this, and to think it
magic. Indeed, I supposed the bag to be a lady's work-bag of beads or
melon-seeds, such as were then in fashion, and to have such quantities of
things come out of it was in no wise short of magic. It was not for many,
many years that I observed that Francis sat on this bag in his tub, as
they sailed to the shore. In those later years, however, I also noticed a
sneer of Ernest's which I had overlooked before. He says, "I do not see
anything very wonderful in taking out of a bag the same thing you have
put into it." But his wise father says that it is the presence of mind
which in the midst of shipwreck put the right things into the bag which
makes the wonder. Now, in daily life, what we need for the comfort and
readiness of the next day is such forecast and presence of mind, with a
vivid imagination of the various exigencies it will bring us to.

Jo Matthew was the most prompt and ready person, with one exception, whom
I have ever had to deal with. I hope Jo will read this. If he does, will
he not write to me? I said to Jo once when we were at work together in the
barn, that I wished I had his knack of laying down a tool so carefully
that he knew just where to find it. "Ah," said he, laughing, "we learned
that in the cotton-mill. When you are running four looms, if something
gives way, it will not do to be going round asking where this or where
that is." Now Jo's answer really fits all life very well. The tide will
not wait, dear Pauline, while you are asking, "Where is my blue bow?" Nor
will the train wait, dear George, while you are asking, "Where is my
Walton's Arithmetic?"

We are all in a great mill, and we can master it, or it will master us,
just as we choose to be ready or not ready for the opening and shutting of
its opportunities.

I remember that when Haliburton was visiting General Hooker's
head-quarters, he arrived just as the General, with a brilliant staff, was
about to ride out to make an interesting examination of the position. He
asked Haliburton if he would join them, and, when Haliburton accepted the
invitation gladly, he bade an aid mount him. The aid asked Haliburton what
sort of horse he would have, and Haliburton said he would--and he knew he
could--"ride anything." He is a thorough horseman. You see what a pleasure
it was to him that he was perfectly ready for that contingency, wholly
unexpected as it was. I like to hear him tell the story, and I often
repeat it to young people, who wonder why some persons get forward so much
more easily than others. Warburton, at the same moment, would have had to
apologize, and say he would stay in camp writing letters, though he would
have had nothing to say. For Warburton had never ridden horses to water or
to the blacksmith's, and could not have mounted on the stupidest beast in
the head-quarters encampment. The difference between the two men is simply
that the one is ready and the other is not.

Nothing comes amiss in the great business of preparation, if it has been
thoroughly well learned. And the strangest things come of use, too, at the
strangest times. A sailor teaches you to tie a knot when you are on a
fishing party, and you tie that knot the next time when you are patching
up the Emperor of Russia's carriage for him, in a valley in the Ural
Mountains. But "getting ready" does not mean the piling in of a heap of
accidental accomplishments. It means sedulously examining the coming duty
or pleasure, imagining it even in its details, decreeing the utmost
punctuality so far as you are concerned, and thus entering upon them as a
knight armed from head to foot. This is the man whom Wordsworth

"Who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a man inspired;
And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need."

The End.


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