“I do not remember,” said Beecher, “a book in all the depths of learning, nor a scrap in literature, nor a work in all the schools of art, from which its author has derived a permanent renown, that is not known to have been long and patiently elaborated.”
“You are a fool to stick so close to your work all the time,” said one of Vanderbilt’s young friends; “we are having our fun while we are young, for when will we if not now?” But Cornelius was either earning more money by working overtime, or saving what he had earned, or at home asleep, recruiting for the next day’s labor and preparing for a large harvest later. Like all successful men, he made finance a study. When he entered the railroad business, it was estimated that his fortune was thirty-five or forty million dollars.
“The spruce young spark,” says Sizer, “who thinks chiefly of his mustache and boots and shiny hat, of getting along nicely and easily during the day, and talking about the theatre, the opera, or a fast horse, ridiculing the faithful young fellow who came to learn the business and make a man of himself, because he will not join in wasting his time in dissipation, will see the day, if his useless life is not earlier blasted by vicious indulgences, when he will be glad to accept a situation from his fellow-clerk whom he now ridicules and affects to despise, when the latter shall stand in the firm, dispensing benefits and acquiring fortune.”
“When a man has done his work,” says Ruskin, “and nothing can any way be materially altered in his fate, let him forget his toil, and jest with his fate if he will; but what excuse can you find for willfulness of thought at the very time when every crisis of fortune hangs on your decisions? A youth thoughtless, when all the happiness of his home forever depends on the chances or the passions of the hour! A youth thoughtless, when the career of all his days depends on the opportunity of a moment! A youth thoughtless, when his every action is a foundation-stone of future conduct, and every imagination a foundation of life or death! Be thoughtless in any after years, rather than now–though, indeed, there is only one place where a man may be nobly thoughtless, his deathbed. Nothing should ever be left to be done there.”
“On to Berlin,” was the shout of the French army in July, 1870; but, to the astonishment of the world, the French forces were cut in two and rolled as by a tidal wave into Metz and around Sedan. Soon two French armies and the Emperor surrendered, and German troopers paraded the streets of captured Paris.
But as men thought it out, as Professor Wells tells us, they came to see that it was not France that was beaten, but only Louis Napoleon and a lot of nobles, influential only because they bore titles or were favorites. Louis Napoleon, the feeble bearer of a great name, was emperor because of that name and criminal daring. By a series of happy accidents he had gained credit in the Crimean War, and at Magenta and Solferino. But the unmasking time came in the Franco-Prussian War, as it always comes when sham, artificial toy-men meet genuine self-made men. And such were the German leaders,–William, strong, upright, warlike, “every inch a king;” Von Roon, Minister of War, a master of administrative detail; Bismarck, the master mind of European politics; and, above all, Von Moltke, chief of staff, who hurled armies by telegraph, as he sat at his cabinet, as easily as a master moves chessmen against a stupid opponent.
Said Captain Bingham: “You can have no idea of the wonderful machine that the German army is and how well it is prepared for war. A chart is made out which shows just what must be done in the case of wars with the different nations. And every officer’s place in the scheme is laid out beforehand. There is a schedule of trains which will supersede all other schedules the moment war is declared, and this is so arranged that the commander of the army here could telegraph to any officer to take such a train and go to such a place at a moment’s notice. When the Franco-Prussian War was declared, Von Moltke was awakened at midnight and told of the fact. He said coolly to the official who aroused him, ‘Go to pigeonhole No. —- in my safe and take a paper from it and telegraph as there directed to the different troops of the empire.’ He then turned over and went to sleep and awoke at his usual hour in the morning. Every one else in Berlin was excited about the war, but Von Moltke took his morning walk as usual, and a friend who met him said, ‘General, you seem to be taking it very easy. Aren’t you afraid of the situation? I should think you would be busy.’ ‘Ah,’ replied Von Moltke, ‘all of my work for this time has been done long beforehand, and everything that can be done now has been done.'”
“A rare man this Von Moltke!” exclaims Professor Wells; “one who made himself ready for his opportunities beyond all men known to the modern world. Of an impoverished family, he rose very slowly and by his own merit. He yielded to no temptation, vice, or dishonesty, of course, nor to the greater and ever present temptation to idleness, for he constantly worked to the limit of human endurance. He was ready for every emergency, not by accident, but because he made himself ready by painstaking labor, before the opportunity came. His favorite motto was, ‘_Help yourself and others will help you_.’ Hundreds of his age in the Prussian army were of nobler birth, thousands of greater fortune, but he made himself superior to them all by extraordinary fidelity and diligence.