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

purposeful living.

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.



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

nothing selfish.

The record of the conversation between mother and son is told in the

boy's biography:

"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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