Overworked Boys by Unknown

The boys of our time are too much afraid of work. They act as if the honest sweat of the brow was something to be ashamed of. Would that they were all equally afraid of a staggering gait and bloated face! This spirit of laziness builds the gambling houses, fills the jails, supplies the saloons and gaming places with loiterers, and keeps the alms houses and charitable institutions doing a brisk business.

It doesn't build mammoth stores and factories, nor buildings like the Astor Library and Cooper Institute. The men who built such monuments of their industry and benevolence were not afraid of work.

All the boys have heard of the great publishing house of the Harpers. They know of their finely illustrated papers and books of all kinds, and perhaps have seen their great publishing house in New York City. But if I should ask the boys how the eldest of the brothers came to found such an illustrious house, I should perhaps be told that he was a "wonderfully lucky man."

He was lucky, and an old friend and fellow-workman, a leading editor, has revealed the secret of his luck. He and the elder Harper learned their trade together, many years ago, in John Street, New York. They began life with no fortune but willing hands and active brains;—fortune enough for any young man in this free country.

[Illustration: "<i>Let's break the back of another token</i>."]

"Sometimes after we had done a good day's work, James Harper would say, 'Thurlow, let's break the back of another token (a quarter of a ream of paper),—just break its back.' I would generally reluctantly consent just to break the back of the token; but James would beguile me, or laugh at my complaints, and never let me off until the token was completed, fair and square!

"It was our custom in summer to do a fair half-day's work before the other boys and men got their breakfast. We would meet by appointment in the gray of the morning, and go down to John Street. We got the key of the office by tapping on the window, and Mr. Seymour would take it from under his pillow, and hand it to one of us through the blind.

"It kept us out of mischief, and put money into our pockets."

[Illustration: It is not best to study how little we can work, but how much.]

The key handed through the window tells the secret of the luck that enabled these two men to rise to eminence, while so many boys that lay soundly sleeping in those busy morning hours are unknown.

No wonder that James Harper became mayor of the city, and head of one of the largest publishing houses in the world. When his great printing house burned down, the giant perseverance which he had learned in those hours of overwork, made him able to raise, from the ashes, a larger and finer one.

Instead of watching till his employer's back was turned, and saying, "Come, boys, let's go home; we've done enough for one day," and sauntering off with a cigar in his mouth, his cry was, "Let's do a little overwork."

That overwork which frightens boys nowadays out of good places, and sends them out West, on shipboard, anywhere, eating husks, in search of a spot where money can be had without work, laid the foundation of the apprentice boy's future greatness.

Such busy boys were only too glad to go to bed and sleep soundly. They had no time nor spare strength for dissipation, and idle thoughts, and vulgar conversation.

Almost the last words that James Harper uttered were appropriate to the end of such a life, and ought to be engraven upon the mind of every boy who expects to make anything of himself: "It is not best to be studying how little we can work, but how much."

Boys, make up your minds to one thing,—the future great men of this country are doing just what those boys did. If you are dodging work, angry at your employer or teacher for trying to make you faithful; if you are getting up late, cross, and sleepy, after a night of pleasure-seeking, longing for the time when you can exchange honest work for speculation, you will be a victim to your own folly.

The plainly-dressed boys whom you meet carrying packages, going of errands, working at trades, following the plow, are laying up stores of what you call good luck. Overwork has no terrors for them. They are preparing to take the places of the great leaders of our country's affairs. They have learned James Harper's secret. The key handed out to him in the "gray of the morning"—that tells the story!

"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."