Left-Handed Billy” treats left-handedness as the “habit” of the stubborn and disobedient. That only perfect obedience could lead to success was a common theme in Robert Merry’s Museum.

“Left-Handed Billy” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, December 1850; pp. 174-175)
Billy, driving an ox-cart

There was once a boy whose name was William: but they used to call him Billy. He was a good-natured fellow, yet he had one fault—he chose to have his own way, and was never careful to mind his parents.

Now Bill did not intend to be disobedient: but he was careless; he did not lay up good advice in his mind, and act according to it; but he usually forgot it, and pursued his own inclination. I will tell you an instance of this.

Billy had made himself a little garden, and he had planted in it a good many seeds. After a few days, the seeds came up, and the boy was greatly delighted at seeing them peep out of the ground. He could hardly keep away from his garden, so fond was he of seeing his budding flowers and plants.

You must know, that the garden was by the road-side, and in the road were a number of pigs. These were always prowling about, and if the gate was left open, they were sure to walk in and do some mischief. They had already got into the garden several times, and rooted up the peas, beans, and cabbages.

Now Billy was very apt to leave this gate open. He could not be made to feel the necessity of keeping it always shut. His mother told him, again and again, to be more careful; but the command went in at one ear, and out at the other.

Well, one day Billy had been to see his little garden, and then he set out to go to school. As usual, he left the gate open, and in walked a couple of pigs. They soon came to his beds of flowers and plants. They poked their long noses into the mellow earth, and in a few minutes the pretty garden was a heap of ruins.

When Bill came home from school, he saw the mischief that had been done.

p. 175

He fretted a good deal and laid it all to the naughty pigs. His mother told him that he had only himself to blame; that the accident arose entirely from his careless habit of leaving the gate open.

After grumbling two or three days, Bill went to work and again planted his little garden. In a week the seeds began to shoot up from the soil, and once more Bill was full of joy. But, after a few days, he again forgot to shut the gate, and again the pigs marched in and rooted the beds all to pieces.

This incident will enable my reader to see what a heedless fellow Bill was. He did not intend to do wrong, but he was careless; he thought more of his play than his duty. Thus he adopted the habit of being careless, and we shall see how he suffered by it.

I must now tell you that Bill was naturally left-handed. By this I mean, that he was more apt to use his left hand than his right. If he took a knife to cut with, or a pen to write anything, he took it in his left hand. His mother used great care to break him of this fault, but still careless Bill kept on using his left hand instead of his right.

Thus he adopted the habit of being left-handed, and he never got over it. This made him appear very awkward, and was a great trouble to him as long as he lived. Nor was this the only evil that flowed from his heedlessness: he grew up careless and awkward in everything. I must tell you one curious instance of this.

One day he went up into a tree which stood before his father’s house, to saw off a large branch. Well, he got upon the branch, took the saw in his left hand and went to work. But alas! the poor fellow got upon the wrong part of the limb, and, when it fell, Left-handed Bill fell with it. He had sawed himself down!

The boy was sadly bruised, and his mother told him she hoped it would teach him the folly of being so careless. But bad habits, once adopted and confirmed, are hard to cure, and Bill went on as heedless as before.

Thus he grew up, and, when he was a man, he received the title of Left-handed Billy. If he drove a team of cattle, he was sure to be on the wrong side, as you see him in the picture at the head of this article. He never succeeded in anything, but became what is called an unlucky fellow. The people used to say, if there was a wrong side, Bill was sure to take it. Such were the evils of growing up in habits of carelessness.

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