He was owner and part owner of several ships lying dismantled during the war, three miles up the river, which was covered with ice an inch thick. He knew that it would be a month before the ice yielded for the season, and that thus the merchants in other towns where the harbors were open, would have time to be in the foreign markets before him. His decision therefore was instantly taken.
“Reuben,” he continued, addressing one of his clerks, “go and collect as many laborers as possible to go up the river. Charles, do you find Mr.—-, the rigger, and Mr.—-, the sailmaker, and tell them I want them immediately. John, engage half-a-dozen truckmen for to-day and to-morrow. Stephen, do you hunt up as many gravers and caulkers as you can, and hire them to work for me.” And Mr. A. himself sallied forth to provide the necessary implements for icebreaking. Before twelve o’clock that day, upward of an hundred men were three miles up the river, clearing the ships and cutting away ice, which they sawed out in large squares, and then thrust under the main mass to open up the channel. The roofing over the ships was torn off, and the clatter of the caulkers’ mallets was like to the rattling of a hail-storm, loads of rigging were passed up on the ice, riggers went to and fro with belt and knife, sailmakers busily plied their needles, and the whole presented an unusual scene of stir and activity and well-directed labor. Before night the ships were afloat, and moved some distance down the channel; and by the time they had reached the wharf, namely, in some eight or ten days, their rigging and spars were aloft, their upper timbers caulked, and everything ready for them to go to sea.
Thus Mr. A. competed on equal terms with the merchants of open seaports. Large and quick gains rewarded his enterprise, and then his neighbors spoke depreciatingly of his “good luck.” But, as the writer from whom we get the story says, Mr. A. was equal to his opportunity, and this was the secret of his good fortune.
A Baltimore lady lost a valuable diamond bracelet at a ball, and supposed it was stolen from the pocket of her cloak. Years afterward, she walked the streets near the Peabody Institute to get money to purchase food. She cut up an old, worn out, ragged cloak to make a hood of, when lo! in the lining of the cloak, she discovered the diamond bracelet. During all her poverty she was worth thirty-five hundred dollars, but did not know it.
Many of us who think we are poor are rich in opportunities if we could only see them, in possibilities all about us, in faculties worth more than diamond bracelets, in power to do good.
In our large eastern cities it has been found that at least ninety-four out of every hundred found their first fortune at home, or near at hand, and in meeting common everyday wants. It is a sorry day for a young man who cannot see any opportunities where he is, but thinks he can do better somewhere else. Several Brazilian shepherds organized a party to go to California to dig gold, and took along a handful of clear pebbles to play checkers with on the voyage. They discovered after arriving at Sacramento, after they had thrown most of the pebbles away, that they were all diamonds. They returned to Brazil only to find that the mines had been taken up by others and sold to the government.
The richest gold and silver mine in Nevada was sold for forty-two dollars by the owner, to get money to pay his passage to other mines where he thought he could get rich.
Professor Agassiz told the Harvard students of a farmer who owned a farm of hundreds of acres of unprofitable woods and rocks, and concluded to sell out and try some more remunerative business.
He studied coal measures and coal oil deposits, and experimented for a long time. He sold his farm for two hundred dollars and went into the oil business two hundred miles away. Only a short time afterward the man who bought the farm discovered a great flood of coal oil, which the farmer had ignorantly tried to drain off.
A man was once sitting in an uncomfortable chair in Boston talking with a friend as to what he could do to help mankind. “I should think it would be a good thing,” said the friend, “to begin by getting up an easier and cheaper chair.”
“I will do it,” he exclaimed, leaping up and examining the chair. He found a great deal of rattan thrown away by the East India merchant ships, whose cargoes were wrapped in it. He began the manufacture of rattan chairs and other furniture, and has astonished the world by what he has done with what was before thrown away. While this man was dreaming about some far off success, he at that very time had fortune awaiting only his ingenuity and industry.
If you want to get rich, study yourself and your own wants. You will find millions of others have the same wants, the same demands. The safest business is always connected with men’s prime necessities. They must have clothing, dwellings; they must eat. They want comforts, facilities of all kinds, for use and pleasure, luxury, education, culture. Any man who can supply a great want of humanity, improve any methods which men use, supply any demand or contribute in any way to their well-being, can make a fortune.
But it is detrimental to the highest success to undertake anything merely because it is profitable. If the vocation does not supply a human want, if it is not healthful, if it is degrading, if it is narrowing, don’t touch it.
A selfish vocation never pays. If it belittles the manhood, blights the affections, dwarfs the mental life, chills the charities and shrivels the soul, don’t touch it. Choose that occupation, if possible, which will be the most helpful to the largest number.