lesson11 How I Reserved My Apprenticeship
1.It is a great pleasure to tell how I served my apprenticeship as a businessman. But there seems to be a question preceding this：Why did I become a businessman？ I am sure that I should never have selected a business career if I had been permitted to choose.
2.The eldest son of parents who were themselves poor,I had,fortunately,to begin to perform some useful work in the world while still very young in order to earn an living and therefore came to usderstand in early boyhood that my duty was to assist my parents and become,as sonn as possible,a breadwiner in the family. What I could get to do,not what I desired, was the question.
3.When I was born my father was a well-to-do master weaver in Scotland. This was the days before the steam engines. He owned no fewer than four handlooms and emplyed apprentices. He wove cloth for a merchant who supplied the material.
4.When the steam engine came,handloom weaving naturally declined.The first serious lesson of my life came to me one day when I was just about ten years old. My father took the last of his work to the merchant,and returned home greatly distressed because there was no more work for him to do. I resolved that the wolf of poverty should be driven from our door some day.
5.The question of starting for the United States was discussed from day to day in the family council. It was finally resolvedthat we would join relatives already in Pittsburgh. I well remember that both father and mother thought the decision was a great sacrifice for them,but that “it would be better for the two boys.”
6.On arriving,my father entered a cotton factory. I soon followed,and served as a“bobbin-boy”,and that was how I began my preparation for subsequent apprenticeship as a businessman. I cannot tell you how proud I was when I received my first week's ——one dollar and twenty cents. It was given to me because I had been of some use in the world！And I became a contributing member of my family！I think this makes a man out of a boy sooner than almost anything else. It is everyting to feel that you are useful.
7.I have had to deal with great sums. Many millions of dollars have since passed through my hands. But the genuine satisfaction I had from that one dollar and twenty cents outweighs any subsequent pleasure in money making. It was the direct reward of honest,manual labor； it represented a week of very hard work——so hard that it might have been described as slavery if it hadn't been for its aim and end.
8.It was a terrible task for a lad of twelve to rise every morning,except Sunday,go to the factory while it was still dark,and not be released until after darkness came again in the evening,forty minutes'break only being allowed at noon.
9.But I was young and had my dreams,and something within always told me that this would not,could not,should not last——I should some day get into a better position. Also,I felt myself no longer a mere boy,but quite a little man,and this made me happy.
10. A change soon came,for a kind old Scotsman,who made bobbins,took me into his factory before I was thirteen. But here for a time it was even worse than in the cotton factory,because I was set to fire the boiler in the cellar and run the small steam engine which drove the machinery. The responsibility of keeping the water right and of running the engine,and the danger of my making a mistake and blowing the whole factory to pieces,caused too great a strain,and I often awoke and found my self sitting up in bed through the night,trying the steam-gauges. But I never told them at home about this. No,no！ Everything must be bright to them.
11.This was a point of honor,for every member of the family was working hard,and we were telling each other only the bright things. Besides,no man would complain and give up——he would die first.
12.There was no servant in our family,and my mother earned sevaeral dollars per week by binding shoes after her daily work was done！ Father was also hard at work in the factory. And could I complain？
13.My kind employer soon relieved me of the strain,for he needed some to make out bills and keep his accounts,and finding that I cuold write a plain schoolboy hand and could addup,he made me his only clerk. But still I had to work hard upstairs in the workshop for the clerking took but little time.
14.You know how people grumble about poverty as a great evil,and it seems to be accepted that if people had only plenty of money and were rich,they would be happy and more useful,and get more out of life.
15.As a rule,there is more genuine satisfaction from life in the humble cottages of the poor than in the palaces of the rich. I always pity the sons and daughters of rich men,who are attended by servants and have a governess even at a later age. They don't know what they have missed. For the poor boy who has in his father his constant companion,tutor,and model,and in his mogher his nurse,teacher,guardian angel,saint,all in one,has a richer,more precious fortune in life than any rich man's son,and compared with which all other fortunes count for little.
16.It is because I know how sweet and happy and pure the home of honest poverty is,how free it is from perplexing care,from social envy and emulation,how loving and how united its members may be in the common interest of supporting the family,that I sympathize with the rich man's boy and congratulate the poor man's boy；and it is for these reasons that from the ranks of the poor so many strong,eminent,self-reliant men have always sprung and always must spring.
17.If you will read the list of the immortals who“were not born to die,” you wil ifnd that most of them were born to the precious heritage of poverty.
18.It seems,nowadays,a matter of universal deire that poverty should be abolished. We should be quite willing to abolish luxury,but to abolish honest,industrious self-denying poverty would be to destry the soil upon which mankind produces the virtues which enable our race to reach a still higher civilization than it now possesses.