“Clara Sinclair,” by Caroline Gilman (from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, September 1850, pp. 286-287)
Clara Sinclair was an intelligent girl, studiously devoted to all her lessons, except arithmetic.
“Oh, mother!” she would exclaim, “this is arithmetic day. How I hate it.”
“My daughter, do not make use of such expressions,” said her mother. “Nothing is wanting but attention and perseverance, to make that study as agreeable as any other. If you pass over a rule carelessly, and say you do not understand it, from want of energy to learn it, you will continue ignorant of important principles. I speak with feeling on this subject, for when I went to school, a fine arithmetician shared the same desk with me, and whenever I was perplexed by a difficult sum, instead of applying to my teacher for an explanation, I asked Amelia to do it for me. The consequence is, that even now I am obliged to refer to others in the most trifling calculations. I expect much assistance from your perseverance, dear Clara,” continued she, affectionately taking her hand.
Clara’s eyes looked a good resolution, and she commenced the next day putting it in practice. Instead of being angry because she could not understand her figures, she tried to clear her brow to understand them better, and her tutor was surprised to find her mind rapidly opening to comprehend the most difficult rules. She now felt the pleasure of self-conquest, besides the enjoyment of her mother’s approbation, and for many years steadily gave herself up to the several branches of mathematics.
Clara was the eldest of three children, who had been born in the luxuries of wealth. Mr. Sinclair was a merchant of great respectability, but in the height of his supposed riches, one of those failures took place, which often occur in commercial transactions, and his affairs became suddenly involved. A nervous temperament, and a delicate constitution, were soon sadly wrought upon by this misfor-
tune. Mr. Sinclair’s mind, perplexed and harrassed, seemed sinking under the weight of anxiety. Clara was at this period sixteen years of age; her mind was clear and vigorous, and seemed ready, like a young fawn, for its first bound.
One cold autumnal evening, the children, with their wild gambols, were playing around the room, while Mr. Sinclair sat leaning his head upon his hand over a table covered with papers. Mrs. Sinclair was busily employed in sewing, and Clara, with her fingers between the pages of a book, sat gazing at her father.
“Those children distract me,” said Mr. Sinclair, in a sharp accent.
“Hush, Robert, come here Margaret,” said Mrs. Sinclair gently; and she took one on her lap, and the other by her knee, and whispering to them a little story, calmed them to sleepiness, and then put them to bed.
When Mrs. Sinclair had left the room, Clara laid down her book, and stood by her father.
“Don’t disturb me, child,” said he, roughly; “my head aches.”—Then recollecting himself, he took her hand, and continued, “Do not feel hurt, my dear; my mind is perplexed by these difficult accounts.”
“Father,” said Clara, with a smile, “I think I can help you, if you will let me try.”
“You! my love,” exclaimed her father, “why these papers would puzzle a wiser head than yours.”
“I do not wish to boast, father,” said Clara, modestly, [“]but my teacher said today—” Clara hesitated.
“Well, what did he say?” asked Mr. Sinclair, encouragingly.
“He said,” answered Clara, blushing deeply, “that I was a quicker accountant than most men of business; and I do believe, father,” continued she, earnestly, “that if you were to explain your papers to me, I could help you.”
Mr. Sinclair smiled incredulously, but, unwilling to check his daughter’s wish for usefulness, he made some remarks, and opened his ledger. Insensibly he found himself entering with her into the labyrinth of numbers. Mrs. Sinclair came in on tiptoe, and seated herself softly at the table to sew. The accounts became more and more complicated, but Mr. Sinclair seemed to gain energy under the clear, quick eye of his child; her unexpected sympathy inspired him with new powers. Hour after hour passed away, and his spirits rose at every chime of the village clock.
“Wife,” said he, suddenly, “if this girl gives me aid like this, I shall be in a new world to-morrow.”
“My beloved child,” said Mrs. Sinclair, pressing Clara’s fresh cheek to her own.
Twelve o’clock struck before Clara left her father, when she commended herself to God, and slept profoundly. The next morning, after seeking his blessing, she repaired to Mr. Sinclair, and sat by him day after day, until his books were faithfully balanced.
“Father,” said she, “you have tried me, and find me worth something; let me keep your books until you can afford a responsible clerk, and give me a little salary to buy shells for my cabinet.[”]
Mr. Sinclair accepted the proposition. Clara’s cabinet increased in beauty, and the finished female hand-writing in his books and papers, was a subject of interest and curiosity to his mercantile friends.—Mrs. Caroline Gilman.