“About Edwin Finley” (from Parley’s Magazine, 20 June 1835; pp. 20-21)
Two weeks ago, I told you a true story about a boy whom I called Peter Brown, though that was not his real name. Now I am going to tell you another true story about another boy whom, for the present, I shall call Edwin Finley.
He was about the age of Peter Brown, and went to the same school. But he was a very different boy. I will not undertake to say that he behaved better at school, or got his lessons better than Peter; but he behaved very differently when he was out of school. He was never found engaged in idle or cruel tricks, or sauntering about for want of employment. I have, indeed, once or twice known him led away by bad boys—sometimes by Peter himself—into mischief; but he was always most heartily sorry for it, and took care to avoid it afterward.
And how do you think he employed himself out of school? He read, and wrote, and thought. The worst of it was, that he read too much. His father wanted him, at work; but when he got hold of an amusing book, he would sit all day, if his father did not call him, and never think of the ploughing or the hoeing.—This was a fault, I confess; but not so great a fault as some others, which I could name, would have been.
As he grew up and came into the world, he too, became a pedler, like Peter. He travelled far and near, and bought and sold
many things.—I cannot say what his success was in all cases; though I do not think he bought cheap and sold dear, like Peter. On the contrary, I rather think that the people of whom he bought, perceiving his honesty and want of tact for business, took advantage of him, and sold him goods at a very high rate:—and that having bought, he sold them as he could; sometimes at a loss.
He did not, however, like Peter, do every thing for the love of money. Indeed I do not think he was fond of money. He followed this mode of life because it enabled him to see the country and learn something of its manners; and to prepare himself for some other more useful occupation. Once or twice he was on the eve of leaving his business and setting up a school; but somehow or other all his plans of this sort were frustrated; and he continued in his peddling profession for many years.
Edwin, however, never neglected or broke the Sabbath; and he kept out of bad company. He never used bad words, or took unfair advantages of people with whom he dealt. Wherever he went, he made friends; and the people were always afterward, not only willing, but glad to see him again.—More than this, he had friends at home. Though they did not think he was always wise and prudent in all he said and did, yet they knew he meant no wrong. He did not love money better than a good name; nor think every body else but himself knavish or hypocritical. He respected people, associated with them, and treated them kindly; and they, on their part, generally loved and respected him.
But even Edwin was by no means faultless. While he had none of the spirit of a miser, he went quite into the opposite extreme, and was rather wasteful. He bought too many clothes, and other fine things; and made too many ‘flourishes.’ This course of extravagance, however, was but of short duration. He had too much good sense to pursue it very long. He grew tired, at length, of a life so uncongenial to his habits and feelings, and abandoned it; and engaged in teaching.
This was an employment for which nobody—not even his best friends—thought Edwin at all qualified; and some of them were sorry to see him engage in it. But they were happily disappointed. He was uncommonly successful. He has continued to teach with increasing success, every year to this time; and he is now regarded as one of the most useful people in all the part of the country where he resides.
And now, reader, you have heard the story, both of Peter and Edwin. I need not ask you which of these boys you should like most to resemble; for I know that there cannot be but one opinion among you. Every one of the many thousand boys who read this Magazine will say that he had a thousand times rather be a poor schoolmaster like the good Edwin—for Edwin, as I forgot to tell you, is poor, and has now a large family to support—than to be like selfish Peter, with all his dollars.