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Thy charm no man shall ever break,
At least, no true man;
And so shall woman.
THE FOUR PISTAREENS.
1. Young persons are too apt to suppose that little circumstances, which happen every day, and little temptations, to which they daily yield, will all be forgotten, or have no influence upon them, when they become men or women. They have not had sufficient experience to know how much the whole life of any individual may be influenced by an apparently trifling event of his childhood.
2. When a person discharges a musket, he finds that the smallest departure from the true aim will give a direction to the ball which will carry it to a wide distance from the mark. And so it is with a very little sin in early life; it may give a direction to our conduct that may lead us far away from the point at which we should all aim.
3. When John was about thirteen years old, he left his paternal roof, in the north of New Jersey, and went to Philadelphia, to learn a trade. He entered as an apprentice with his brother, a coachmaker, in the northern part of the city.
4. On a certain occasion he was sent to a drug store for a half gallon of oil. He had frequently been sent on a similar errand, and had been accustomed to pay twenty-five cents for the oil. But it happened that oil had fallen, and the price on the present occasion was only twenty cents; of which, however, he was not informed. He had taken with him, to pay for the oil, a one dollar note, and having obtained the article, he presented the note, and received in change not, as he expected, three quarters of a dollar, but four pistareens.
5. It may be necessary to remark, that the pistareen was an old Spanish coin, of the value of twenty cents, which was in extensive circulation twenty years ago. At the present day they are but rarely met with, and my young readers may never have seen them. John, who had never been much troubled with money changing, and was ignorant of their value, supposed they were quarters of a dollar, and that the druggist had given him four instead of three.
6. He had been taught when a child to be honest. He knew that he ought to do to others as he would have others do to him; and that it was as dishonest to take advantage of another's mistake to take what was not his own, as to cheat in any other way. His first impulse, therefore, was to return one of the pieces to the man; but before he had time to carry out his feelings into practice, the thought occurred to him, that he would give three of them to his brother, as the right change, and keep the fourth for himself.
7. He closed his hand upon the money, picked up his jug, and left the store. He stopped, however, upon the step, and looked at his money. There were certainly four, and he should have but three. Conscience began to reprove him, but selfishness claimed the fourth as its own. The latter pleaded the hardest; and fearing lest the druggist should discover his mistake and recall him, he hurried off homeward, thinking of his good fortune.
8. The jug in which he carried the oil had no handle, and John was forced to carry it by a string tied around its neck. This so cut his fingers, that, after changing it from one hand to the other several times, he was compelled to stop at the distance of a square, and rest. Setting down the oil, and seating himself upon a step, he took out his supposed quarters of a dollar to convince himself there was one too many. But although he congratulated himself on his good fortune, John's heart was not at ease.
9. He knew he should have returned one of the pieces to Mr. W- -, the store-keeper; that in keeping it he was acting dishonestly, and that he ought still to turn back, and correct the mistake. But cupidity was as busy as conscience, and soon framed a number of good reasons why it was properly and lawfully his. The druggist ought not to have made the mistake, and would justly lose by his carelessness. To Mr. W- a quarter of a dollar was but a trifle, and would never be missed, whilst to him it was a large amount.
10. Besides, it was too late now to return. If he did, he should probably be censured for not returning at first; — and then he would be losing too much time, and displease his brother. How strangely people will balance the account of their sins, by making the omission of one to atone for the commission of another! John entirely convinced himself that he should be wronging his brother of his valuable time, by returning to rectify so trifling a mistake. He proceeded on his way.
11. But by the time he reached a second corner, his con science, as well as his jug, began to be very heavy again. He again sat down to rest, and to settle the dispute between his principles and his desires; and again went on his way determined to keep the money, but by no means satisfied that he was doing right.
12. The next corner brought John a third time to a stand. Rest relieved the smartings of his hands, but the cuttings of his conscience were not so readily palliated. He meditated some minutes.
Conscience now became urgent in its demands. But he was ashamed to go back. He wished he had obeyed his first honest impulse. He felt very unhappy. But he must not delay. He had already been a good while about his errand. He took up his jug. He was undecided whether to go forward or to return. He stood one moment, and determined - to go back.
13. It was a hard task to trudge back three long squares with a heavy jug, without a handle; and more than once he had almost determined to give up his honest resolution. But he persevered, reached the store, and set down his load. "You have given me too much change," said he, presenting the four pistareens to Mr. W—; "you have given me four quarters of a dollar instead of three."
14. “ And how far had you got before you discovered the mistake?” said Mr. W
This was a stumper; for John had discovered it before he left the store, and he now imagined that the druggist was acquainted with the whole circumstance. But such was not the fact. Mr. Wknew that, from the time John had been gone, he must have got some distance, and he wished to know how far.
15. Supposing, from his silence, that he did not understand him, he repeated the question in another shape. “I say, how far, my boy, have you been since you were here ?" John recovered from his embarrassment. “ To Callowhill street, sir.”
“ You think there is a quarter too much, do you? Well, you may have that for your honesty."
16. John thanked him, and, putting the pistareens into his pocket, without suspecting the joke, he resumed his burden, with far different feelings from those that had filled his bosom half an hour before. As he was about leaving the Stop, my man,” said Mr. W
; “I will not deceive you. You have your right change. The oil is twenty cents, and those four pieces are not quarters of a dollar; they are twenty cent pieces.
17. “Here is a quarter,” continued the benevolent storekeeper, taking one from his drawer," which I will give you. You can notice the difference between them as you go home; and let me advise you always to deal as honestly as you have to-day.”
18. Who can imagine the feelings of the boy when he saw the real state of the matter, and knew, in an instant, that, had he persevered in his sinful project, he must, from the very nature of the circumstances, have been discovered ?
“ Had I carried out my first intentions,” said he to me, when he related the anecdote, “ I should have handed my
brother three of the pistareens.
19. “He would of course have asked for the balance, and I should have been driven to add falsehood to my crime, by saying that was all he gave me. In all probability, I should have been detected, and sent back to my father in disgrace. It would have stamped my character with dishonesty, from which I might never have recovered.” As it was, he picked up his jug, and with a light heart and rapid step proceeded up
the street. 20. He was so rejoiced at the happy result, and so thankful for his preservation, that he set out on a run,
and did not feel the old string cut his fingers, till he reached the third corner, where he had resolved upon returning to the store. During thirty-five years that he lived after this event, he never forgot the lesson it taught him; and throughout his life, in private business, and in public office, he ever acted under the firm conviction that “honesty is the best policy.”
1. A Few days since, I was walking with a friend, who, unfortunately for himself, seldom meets with anything in the world of realities worthy of comparison with the ideal of his fancy, which, like the bird in the Arabian tale, glides perpetually before him, always near, yet never overtaken. I felt my arm suddenly pressed.
2. “Did you see that lady, who has just passed us?” he inquired. I turned and threw back a glance. “I see her," I replied; "a good figure, and quite a graceful step--what of her ?" “Why, she is almost beautiful,-in fact, very