Working is Better than Wishing

NOW then, Tom, lad, what’s up? in trouble again?” asked a good-natured sailor of his messmate, one snowy day on the wide Atlantic.

The boy was leaning moodily against the bulwarks of the vessel—a pleasant, ruddy young fellow of fourteen, but with a cloud on his face which looked very like discontent.

Snow was falling heavily, but he did not heed it; he looked up, however, at the approach of his friend, and answered,—

“I’m all right, Pearson; it isn’t that. I was only wishing and wondering why I can’t get what I want; it seems a shame, it does!” and Tom paused abruptly, half choked by a sob.

“What is it, Tom?” asked Pearson; “have the other lads been plaguing? Such a big, hearty fellow as you ought not to fret for that.”

“I don’t,” said Tom, sharply; “it’s not that; but they’ve found out that my little brother is in the workhouse at home, and they throw it at me. I’d do anything to get him out, too, for he oughtn’t to be there: we come of a better sort, Pearson,” he said, proudly; “but father and mother dying of that fever put us all wrong. Uncle got me to sea, and then, I suppose, he thought he’d done enough; so there was only the workhouse left for Willy. He’s the jolliest little chap, Pearson, you ever saw, and I’d work day and night to get him out, if I could; but where’s the  use? A poor boy like me can do nothing; so I just get in a rage, or don’t care about anything, and fight the other lads; or I’m had up for neglect of duty, or something.”

“And so you lose all chance of getting on, and being able in time to help your little brother,” said Pearson, as if musing; “but what’s that you have in your hand, Tom—a picture?”

“It’s Willy,” said the boy; “yes, you may look, Pearson. Mother had it taken just before she fell ill; he’s only four, but he’s the prettiest little chap, with yellow hair all in curls. I dare say they’ve cut them off, though,” he added, bitterly. “There’s a bit of a sickly child on board, belonging to the tall lady in black, that reminds me a little of him, only he isn’t near as pretty as Willy.”

“Yes, he is a pretty little lad,” said Pearson, returning the photograph; “and now, Tom, mind my word: I am an old fellow compared to you, and I’ll give you a bit of advice. The little lad is safe, at any rate, in the workhouse; he’s got food and clothes, and you couldn’t give him that; so be content, and try to do your own duty. If you get a good character, instead of being always had up for sulking or fighting, that’s the best chance for you, and, after you, for Willy. As for the lads’ teasing, why, be a bit hard of hearing, and before many years, I warrant, you’ll be having Willy aboard ship as boy, when you’re an able-bodied seaman.”

Tom laughed. “Thank you, Pearson. Well, I’ll try; but I do get wishing and bothering of nights.”

“Ah, that wishing’s a poor trick,” said Pearson; “give it up, Tom, and work instead.”

People don’t often take advice, but this time it was followed. A great deal of rough weather came on; every one had as much as he could do, and Tom worked with the best of them, and to his great joy was noticed by the ship’s officers as a willing lad.

One bright morning brought all the passengers on deck,—the ship was bound for Rio,—and among them came the tall lady in black, with her little boy in her arms. Tom’s duties took him near her, and he could not but steal a glance at the little face like Willy’s; but, O, so pale and pinched now! The child had suffered dreadfully in the rough weather; it was doubtful whether he would see land again, he was so weakened. Tom felt sorry for the little fellow, but his work engrossed him, and he had nearly forgotten the white-faced child, when, to his great surprise, the captain called him. The lady in black was a relative of the captain, and it seemed that while Tom had been glancing at the sick child, the child had been watching him, and had taken a fancy to his clear round face, and active movements.

“Let me see what sort of a head-nurse you can make,” said the captain to Tom; “this little fellow will have you carry him, he says, and teach him to climb the rigging.”

Tom smiled, but instantly checked himself, as hardly respectful to the captain.

They dressed Carlo up in a suit of sailor clothes. To be sure they were rather large for him, but then it was such fun to be a real little sailor. Under Tom’s care his face soon grew round and fat, and his merry laugh rang out on the air. And now he would live to see his father and his birthplace again, for he was born in South America, and had only left his Portuguese father for a few months, to accompany his English mother on a visit to her relatives.

The day before they sighted land, Tom was sent for into the captain’s cabin, and there a wonderful proposal was made to him—that he should give up sea life, and go to Bella Sierra as little Carlo’s attendant. Carlo’s parents were rich people; little Carlo had taken a great fancy to him, and he would have good wages.

Carlo dressed in his sailor suit


It sounded very pleasant; but little  Willy! he should never see him—it would not do. Tom hesitatingly explained this to Carlo’s mother, drawing the little photograph out of his pocket the while.

Then came the last and best proposition,—that Willy should come out on the Flying Star’s next voyage, and live, too, at Bella Sierra. Mrs. Costello—the lady in black—promised to pay all expenses, and put him in charge of the stewardess. Carlo, her only child, had grown so fond of Tom, that she would do anything to keep him.

“Such an active, willing boy,” she explained to the captain. “I have often watched him at work, and admired the way in which he did it.”

“Well, lad,” said Pearson, when Tom came to tell him the news, “wasn’t I right when I told you that the best way you could work for Willy was by doing your own duty? If you had gone on in that half-and-half, discontented way, no rich lady would have cared to have you about her house—would she?”

Tom looked thoughtful. “Yes, you were right, Pearson; you’ve done it all; and now I want you to do one thing more. Please look after Willy a bit when he comes out; he’s such a daring little chap, he’ll always be running away from the stewardess.”

“Ah, you want me to be nurse now—do you?” said Pearson; “all right, lad, and as the song says, ‘Don’t forget me in the land you’re going to.’ And you can still stick to my old motto, that ‘Working is better than Wishing.’”