Page images
PDF
EPUB

gaged in constructing works of defence from Wallabout Bay to Red Hook, one of the parties, under the supervision of a subaltern officer, had a large timber to raise, and it proved too heavy for their strength. While they were labouring hard to raise it, the officer doing nothing but shout, “Hurra, boys, n-o-w, right u-p, h-e-a-v-e !" &c., a man rode up on horseback. “Why do you not lend a helping hand ?" said the gentleman on the horse to the officer. The latter indignantly replied: “What, sir ! I lend a helping hand! Why, I'll have you to know, sir, that I'm a corporal !The horseman suddenly alighted, laid hold of the timber with the men, and very soon it was in the place required. Then turning to the corporal he said : “Mr Corporal, my name is George Washington. I have come over from New York to inspect the works here ; so soon as you have done this piece of work, you will meet me at your commander's, General Sullivan's, quarters.”

Washington was commander-in-chief; but he could do the work of the humblest soldier, when necessity required. The corporal occupied an inferior place; yet he could not condescend to help to raise a timber. The two characters are a striking illustration of what we behold in all departments of business.

These facts will exhibit to the reader the attractions and value of that humility which enables one to maintain correct views of his position and mission in this world. If they serve to awaken in the breast of any youth such aspirations as characterised the whole life of Lawrence, they will not be pondered in vain. It is evident that the false pride considered, is inimical, not only to success, but to high standing with those whose

favour and friendship is valuable. Such views and feelings as Lawrence entertained about position and the various pursuits of life are alone honourable.

CHAPTER XV.

POLITENESS.

Much that passes for politeness in the world is nothing but miserable affectation. Some are vain enough to suppose that this quality is possessed when they have acquired certain movements and airs, such as prevail in some fashionable circles. But this class are about as far removed from true politeness as the veriest clown. Their ignorant domestics

may

far excel them in really good manners. They appear to think that only a select few can make this acquisition. · And it would be so, if politeness consisted in such a "vain show” as they suppose. If, as many imagine, it is necessary to attend a dancing-school, in order to be polite, then, indeed, only a small part of mankind can possess this quality.

But there is no necessity of this kind. True politeness is something that every person may cultivate. The wood-cutter may possess it as really as the man for whom he cuts. So may the sailor, farmer, mechanic, and drayman practise it as truly as the merchant, lawyer, physician, or clergyman. For politeness is nothing more nor less than good manners. It is to be a gentleman, in the best sense of the term; and a writer says of that: “The term gentleman may be interpreted a man of gentle manners--one who in all the intercourse of life, exhibits urbanity of manners or disposition, affability, mildness, freedom from roughness, or rudeness, coarseness, grossness, or vulgarity.' The basis of such a character must be constituted of benevolence, humility, and meekness.

Lord Chesterfield said: “Manners, though the last, and it may be the least, ingredient of real merit, are, however, very far from being useless in its composition; they adorn, and give an additional force and lustre to both virtue and knowledge. They prepare and smooth the way for the progress of both; and are, I fear, with the bulk of mankind, more engaging than either. Remember, then, the infinite advantage of manners; cultivate and improve your own to the utmost; good sense will suggest the great rules to you, good company will do the rest.”

This is what we understand by politeness ; and Amos Lawrence was a model youth and man in this respect. A brief reference again to his general bearing will not only exhibit the nature of this quality more particularly but will shew also that he was worthy of being imitated in his courteous bearing.

In youth he was not accustomed to use those rough, uncouth expressions, and those low, slang phrases, which so many young persons, who lay claim to respectability, employ. As for vulgar and profane words, they were not so much as to be named in his presence. No one expected to hear such expressions drop from his lips. They would have been astonished to hear them from one of whom they had learned to expect better things. Perhaps it would have surprised no one to hear them from his fellow-apprentices; but "Amos " was not suspected of such things.

He was not foppish nor clownish at this period. A “golden mean” characterised him in this regard. His “polish” was not altogether on his boots. He did not depend upon broadcloth to give him character, nor did he descend to boorishness to gain notoriety. The artlessness and simplicity, with the grace and dignity of the well-bred gentleman, characterised his youth.

There was about him no undue familiarity, no airs, no vain notions of superiority, all of which are inconsistent with true politeness. On the other hand, a sober view of his duties, a winning modesty, and an accommodating spirit, were his distinguishing traits.

He cherished also a profound respect for age. He looked upon persons older than himself as his superiors, and treated them aecordingly. Neither impertinence nor impudence characterised him in his intercourse with men and women.

In these particulars the youth of Amos Lawrence was a model for the young in every age. Nor was this quality of politeness less conspicuous in his manhood. He had a peculiar faculty to make every one feel at home in his presence;

and it arose from his urbanity of manners. No one ever felt that he was unapproachable and unsympathising. In this regard, he was an embodiment of a certain writer's description of the truly polite man in social life; viz. : “He is a friend of every body -a man who is always approachable, always upon a level with the mass of minds around him, provided his sympathies with the masses and his condescension to their tastes and wishes do not flow on in so overwhelming a current as to carry away all the barriers settled by a high regard to social and moral order."

In his shop he was as courteous to a clerk as to a customer. Whatever else his employees might have expected, they received the best treatment at his hands. All of them bore emphatic testimony to his uninterrupted exhibition of politeness. How different it is with many employers! They may be gentlemanly to customers, but they treat their clerks as menials. Here is a specimen : “A poor girl called upon a merchanttailor for work. She had sewed for another man; but he had no more work for her at present. She convinced him that she could make vests to please him, and he accordingly gave her one to make. When she returned it, it was somewhat tumbled, although the sewing part was quite well done. The tailor looked at it, and exclaimed : 'Well, this is a pretty job for one to bring in! A pretty job, indeed !' at the same time throwing the vest upon the counter as if it were worthless. The girl stood motionless, and almost heart-broken ; for she was depending upon the pay for making that vest to purchase food for her mother's breadless family. • You need not stand there, Miss, thinking I am going to pay you for ruining a job. It is bad enough to lose my material and customer. In justice, you should pay me for the vest; but there is no hope for that; so take yourself off, and never let me set eyes on you again.”

Mr Lawrence would not have indulged in such a breach of good manners if an employee had caused him to sacrifice a hundred pounds. There is such a thing as

« EelmineJätka »