The Courage Of Facing Consequences
YOUNG people sometimes play the game of "Consequences." The sport
increases in proportion to the strangeness of the results.
Perhaps the reason the game has so many attractions is the fact that
life is a long story of consequences.
There are people who do not like to play the game of life seriously
because they say the consequences of self-denial and self-sacrifice are
too uncertain; they prefer the cowardice of inaction to the courage of
The folks worth while are those who, refusing to be troubled by what may
or may not be the consequences of their acts, still have the pluck to go
on with what they know is right. Let the results be what they may, they
propose to be straightforward and true. This is the courage that counts.
There may be uncertainty as to the specific form the results of their
stand may take, yet that result is sure to be pleasing and helpful.
When Washington Irving was about to return to America from Madrid, where
he had been minister of the United States to the court of Spain, the
Philadelphia house that had been publishing his books, discouraged by
the decreasing sales, sent word to him that the public was not able to
appreciate his books, and they would have to allow them to go out of
print. The books had been printed directly from the type, so there were
no plates which another publisher might use to bring out further
editions at small expense.
The author, who was then sixty-five years of age, sorrowfully accepted
the verdict of his publisher, and planned to take desk-room in the New
York office of his brother, John Treat Irving, where he hoped to make a
living by the practice of law.
But this was not to be. In New York was a young publisher who believed
that Washington Irving's works were classics, and that the American
public would buy them eagerly if properly approached. Friends told him
that he might make a mistake, but he had the courage to go ahead. So he
wrote to the discouraged author what must have seemed to other
publishers a daring letter; he proposed to publish new editions of all
Irving's old books, on condition that new books, also, be given to him;
and he promised that royalties for the first year should be at least one
thousand dollars, for the second year two thousand dollars, and for the
third year three thousand dollars.
When Irving received the letter, he kicked over the desk in front of
him, at the same time saying to his brother:
"There is no necessity, John, for my bothering with the law. Here is a
fool of a publisher going to give me a thousand dollars a year for doing
But the publisher was not so foolish as he seemed. His promises were
more than made good. Sales were large. Other authors were attracted,
until the publishing house became one of the leaders among American
Nine years later Washington Irving had an opportunity to show his
gratitude. Just before the panic of 1857 a young man whom the generous
publisher had taken into partnership, involved him seriously. The
defalcations were not discovered until the accidental death of the
partner. Thus weakened, the firm was unable to survive the panic; its
affairs were put in the hands of a receiver, and all accounts were
sold. At the age of forty-two, the head of the firm bravely faced the
necessity of beginning life over.
At the receiver's sale Washington Irving bought the plates of all his
books. A number of publishers offered him fancy terms if he would permit
them to bring out new editions, but he turned a deaf ear to their
entreaties and offered the plates to their former owner, to be paid for
in annual installments. Touched by the gratitude of his friend, the
publisher accepted the offer.
The author never had cause to regret his action. During the years that
elapsed before his death the results of the new venture were more
satisfactory than ever. The courageous action of both publisher and
author had been amply vindicated by results.
The best time to learn the courage that proves so effective in the
struggle of life is in youth. More than fifty years ago two boys in
Scotland were hunting rabbits. Tiring of the comparatively easy hunting
on the ground, they looked longingly at a cliff of hard clay several
hundred feet high, in whose precipitous side were many rabbit burrows.
They managed to climb the cliff. At length they were making their way
along an almost perpendicular parapet, cutting their way with their
knives. Then one of the boys fell, with a scream, to the bottom of the
cliff. There was a moment of terror. This was succeeded by a grim
determination to go forward, the only way of escape. Driving his knife
deep in the clay, he rested on this for a moment. That moment, it has
always since seemed to him, marked the first momentous period in his
life, the time when his personality first emerged into consciousness. He
says: "I whispered to myself one word, 'Courage!' Then I went on with my
work." At length he reached the ground.
The lesson learned at such fearful cost told emphatically on the boy's
character. From that day he showed that there was in him the making of a
man who would not be balked by unfavorable circumstances. He did not
understand how or why, but he felt that new will-power had come to him
with the appeal to himself to take courage in the face of death.
A few years later he went to Brazil. A Spaniard told him that moral
deterioration within six months was all but certain to come to every
young man who began life there. But he was determined not to give way to
bad habits. When he reached Santos, his companions urged him to give
himself up to all kinds of vice; they told him that it was either this
or death, or perhaps something worse than death. They emphasized their
words by pointing to a young man who had determined to keep straight,
and had been left to himself until he was demented. But the boy who had
learned courage on the precipice made up his mind that he must live as
God wished him to live, and he turned a deaf ear to all entreaties.
Another book of biography tells of a boy who delighted in playing cards
with his father and mother. But when he united with the Church and
became President of the Christian Endeavor Society he began to wonder if
he was doing right. One night his father took up the cards and called
him to play whist.
"I don't think I'll play whist any more," he said quietly. "I've been
thinking that perhaps it wasn't right for me to play."
"Are you setting yourself up to judge your father and mother, young
man?" his father asked, sternly.
"No, I didn't say it isn't all right for you to play," was the reply.
"But you know I am President of the Christian Endeavor Society and some
of the members don't think it is right to play. So I guess I'd better
His father looked at him thoughtfully for a minute, then picked up the
cards and threw them back into the drawer.
"Charlie," he said, "I want you to understand that I think you have done
a manly thing to-night, and I honor you for your courage."
That was the end of whist in that house.
Courage showed itself in much the same way in the life of J. Marion
Sims, the great surgeon. He used to tell how, when he was a boy at a
South Carolina School, he was able to take a stand that had its effect
on his whole after-life. Many of his fellow students were sons of
wealthy planters, and their habits were not always the best. On several
occasions they tried to lead him into mischief. They were particularly
anxious to make him a companion in their drinking bouts. Twice he gave
way to their pleas, but after sorrowful experience of the results of his
lapses, he decided to make a brave stand. So he said to his tempters:
"See here, boys, you can all drink, and I cannot. You like wine and I do
not. I hate it; its taste is disagreeable, its effects are dreadful,
because it makes me drunk. Now, I hope you all will understand my
position. I don't think it is right for you to ask me to drink wine when
I don't want it, and when it produces such a bad effect on me."
To say this required real courage, but the results were good, not only
in himself, but also, fortunately, in some of his companions.
Those who, in early life, learn to be courageous in the face of
difficult tasks will be ready for the temptation that is apt to come to
most young people to compromise with what they know to be right and
true, to allow an exception "just this once!" in the straightforward
course they have marked out for themselves. And the worst of it is that
such a temptation is apt to come without the slightest warning and to
present itself in such a light that it is easy to find an excuse for
yielding, and to deem it quixotic and unreasonable not to yield.
Once a young teacher who later became famous at Harvard, had occasion to
censure a student who had given, as he believed, the wrong solution of
a problem. On thinking the matter over at home, he found that the pupil
was right and the teacher wrong. It was late at night and in the depth
of winter, but he immediately started for the young man's room, at some
distance from his own home, and asked for the man he had wronged. The
delinquent, answering with some trepidation the untimely summons, found
himself the recipient of a frank apology.
"Why, in the name of reason, do you walk a mile in the rain for a
perfectly unimportant thing?" this man was asked on another occasion.
"Simply because I have discovered that it was a misstatement, and I
could not sleep comfortably till I put it right," was the reply.
Again the story is told of him that he borrowed a friend's horse to ride
to a town where he expected to take the stage. He promised to leave the
animal at a certain stable in the town. Upon reaching the place he found
that the stage was several miles upon its way. This was a serious
disappointment. A friend urged him to ride to the next town, where he
could come up with the vehicle, promising himself to send after the
borrowed horse and forward it to its owner. The temptation to accept the
offer was great. The roads were ankle deep in mud, and the stage
rapidly rolling on its way. The only obstacle was his promise to leave
the horse at the appointed place. He declined the friendly offer,
delivered the horse as he had promised, and, shouldering his baggage,
set off on foot through the mud to catch the stage.
At this time he was eighteen years old, but he had learned the lesson
that made him remarkably efficient and dependable through life.
Dr. W. T. Grenfell has told of a hardy trapper in Labrador, the partner
of a man who was easily discouraged; the arrangement was that they
should share equally the hardships and the rewards of the trapping
expeditions. Both were very poor. The stronger man was most unselfish in
his treatment of his associate. One winter their lives were all but lost
during the severity of a storm which burst on them while they were
setting their traps on an ice-girt island. On reaching the mainland the
timid man insisted on dissolving the partnership; he was unwilling to
repeat the risks, even for the sake of his needy family. In a few days
the hardy trapper revisited the traps on the mainland. To his great joy
he found in one trap a magnificent silver fox, whose skin was worth five
hundred dollars--a fortune to the Labrador trapper, especially welcome
during that hard winter. "How glad I am the partnership has been
dissolved, and that the fox is all mine," was his first thought. But
first thought was not allowed to be last thought. There was a struggle.
At length the decision was made that the needy man who had set the trap
with him should share in the prize; the argument that he had forfeited
all right to a share was not allowed to weigh against the unselfish
arguments for division.
A friend of young people has told of an incident which occurred in a
great Boston department store where she sought to match some dress
goods. After turning away from several discourteous clerks she showed
her sample to a salesman who gave respectful attention to her. Glancing
at the slits cut in the side of the bit of goods, he remarked:
"That isn't one of my samples. I will ask the clerk who mailed this
sample to wait on you."
"But I don't want any other clerk to wait on me," responded the women,
hastily, fearing that the sample might have come originally from one of
the discourteous clerks first encountered; "I want you to have this
"If you had asked for goods of that quality, width and price, without
showing me the sample, I could have found it for you at once," replied
the clerk, with a smile, "but now, this sale belongs to the clerk who
sent out the sample."
"Then I won't give you this sample to hunt it up by," said the woman,
wishing to see if she could carry her point, and she proceeded to tuck
the sample away in her purse.
"But I know that I have seen it, and my conscience knows it," was the
clerk's comment, as he laughingly laid his hand on his heart and turned
to look for the other salesman.
The purchaser went on to tell thus of the salesman's unerring loyalty to
his principles: "In a moment he returned. The other clerk was at lunch.
What a sigh of relief I gave! 'I will make out the sale and turn it over
to him when he comes in,' he said, displaying the shining black folds of
the goods I desired."
A real estate dealer in a Texas city was once tempted to be false to his
principles, "just once," when he felt sure a sale depended on it. His
prospective customer was a foreigner, who wished the salesman to drink
with him after a trip to examine the property on Saturday and then to
promise to make an engagement to continue the search next morning. But
the business man was opposed to the use of liquor, and he had never done
business on Sunday. What was he to do on this occasion? Would it hurt
anything if he should make an exception in favor of this customer who
could not be expected to understand his scruples?
The temptation was acute; but it was conquered. Respectfully but firmly
the buyer was told why the salesman could not join him in taking a
drink, and why he could not go with him again until Monday morning. The
man went away in a rage.
Next morning the real estate man saw the foreigner in the hands of a
rival. "That sale is gone!" he thought. When three days more passed
without the return of the buyer he decided that he had paid heavily for
being true to his better self.
But on Thursday evening the foreigner sought the conscientious real
estate dealer and surprised him by saying:
"Those other fellows showed me lots of farms, but you wouldn't drink
with me, nor show me land on Sunday because you think it wrong. So,
maybe, I think you won't lie to me. I buy my farm of you."
Many times the reward of being true to one's conscience will not come so
promptly--except in the satisfaction the man has in knowing that he has
done the right thing. But the sure result is to bring him a little
nearer to the great reward that must come to a man whose integrity has
stood the test of years--the appreciation of those who know him and
their confidence in his honor.
It is not always necessary that a man should be aquainted with another
to be able to repose implicit confidence in him. A life of fearless,
straightforward duty-doing will inevitably leave its record in the face.
Sometimes a frank, open countenance that cannot be misread is far better
than any letter of introduction.
"We are suspicious of strangers," a man said to one who had sought at
his hands a favor that called for trust; then he added, with a smile,
"but some faces are above suspicion," and proceeded, with overwhelming
generosity, to grant far more than had been asked.
Years ago a business man unexpectedly found himself without sufficient
funds to continue his journey through Europe. As this was before the
days of travelers' checks or the ocean cable, he was at a loss what to
do. In his uncertainty he went to an Italian banking house and asked
them to cash a large draft on his home bank. After an instant's pause
the request was granted. Years later the merchant again saw the
accommodating banker, and asked why a stranger was given such a large
sum. "In plain truth, it was just your honest face, and nothing else,"
was the reply. On another trip abroad the merchant had a similar
experience. During a thunderstorm he took refuge with his wife in a
curio shop. The English-speaking woman in charge was so cordial, and her
goods were so pleasing, that the visitor said he would have liked to
make some purchase, but his remaining funds were not more than
sufficient for his journey home. The reply was: "Take whatever you
please, sir. No one could look in your face and distrust you."
A similar story was told by a Russian Jew who entered New York a
penniless immigrant. After a disheartening period of working in the
sweatshop he saw an opportunity to start in business for himself. But he
had no capital. At a venture he asked a business man to trust him for
the stock in trade. After gazing at him closely the man said, "You have
a credit face, so I will do as you ask."
It is worth while to have a face that insures confidence. But let it be
remembered that the possession of such a face is not an accident; it
belongs only to those who have the courage to think honestly, deal
fairly and live truly.
FINDING HIS LIFE
During the boyhood of Charles Abraham Hart, who was later the youngest
soldier in the War with Spain, he was on confidential terms with his
mother. One day when they were visiting together, she asked him about
something that had happened the winter before, which she was unable to
understand. His father had given to him and to his brothers two dollars
each to spend for Christmas presents. William spent the entire sum, but
Charles bought cheap presents, and it was evident that he had kept back
a part of the amount. Other members of the family misunderstood him, but
his mother thought she knew him well enough to be sure he had done
The record of the conversation between mother and son is told in the
"The presents you bought were very cheap presents," she said to him. "I
don't think they could have cost more than seventy-five cents."
"They cost sixty-five cents," he told her.
"And your father asked what you had done with the rest of your money,
and you said you didn't want to tell him."
"Yes, I remember that father thought I was stingy, too."
"Do you mind telling me now what you did with the money?"
The boy did not answer for a few moments. Then he said, quietly:
"I bought a Bible for Fred Phillips. He didn't have a good Bible, and I
thought he needed one more than you and the boys needed expensive
"But why didn't you tell your father?"
"Because Fred was ashamed not to be able to buy the Bible for himself,
and he wouldn't take mine until I had promised that I wouldn't tell
anybody that I had given it to him. Since Fred has moved to Boston, I
feel he wouldn't care if I told you. I want you to know, for I just
heard to-day that Fred has joined the church. Isn't that good news?"
"Yes, indeed. Perhaps your giving him the Bible helped him to do it,
too. Charles, when you get to be a man, do you suppose you will always
be so careless of how others may misunderstand you?"
"I am not careless of that now," he declared. "The desire to be popular
is one of the things I have to fight against all the time."
What shall we choose? Comfort of service? Ease, or honorable performance
of duty? The desire for popularity, or the purpose to be of use? Service
is the best way to find comfort; honorable performance of duty is the
sure road to the only ease worth while, and thoughtfulness for others is
the open sesame to popularity.
There is nothing new in this statement. It is only one of the thousand
and one possible applications of the lesson taught by the great Teacher
when He said, "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
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