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to, and execute great things, which the careless and procrastinating never accomplish.
Air and exercise had gained us a good appetite for our meal ; after which, though we had felt no weariness while actively engaged, we found no inclination to controvert Uncle Barnaby's remark, that we might as well employ ourselves in-doors the remainder of the day. He proposed that we should assist him in making a plan for the erection of a school-house. It was a project, he said, on which his mind and heart had long been occupied ; but the time had never arrived in which he could obtain such co-operation as would justify him in setting about it. Since he left us on the ice, he had held a meeting on the subject with a few neighbours; the thing was decided, the ground selected, and the execution of the business was committed to his superintending care. My uncle had collected several plans; the merits and disadvantages of each were discussed, as well as its adaptation to the spot in question.
The selection being made, Frank, who was a good draughtsman, prepared a plan for the occasion, while uncle digested the rules of the proposed institution, and wrote to a friend of his to be on the look-out for a suitable master and mistress. Frank told me, that after the thing was once decided on, nothing could have induced uncle to sleep a night without taking measures for its actual accomplishment. Next morning, the carpenter and mason received their instructions; and several poor people, whom the frost had thrown out of their regular employ, were immediately set to work in clearing the foundation, and collecting materials for the intended building. “This,” thought I,
“is seeing about a thing in right earnest.” Before the holidays were over, considerable progress was made in the building; and long before we again visited my uncle at Midsummer, a good school was collected, master and mistress comfortably settled, and a course of instruction going on that proved a great blessing to the rising generation.
But I must cut short my remarks. What with skating, and riding, and inspecting the progress of the school, and attending the lectures and experiments of the philosopher, and receiving the visits of our young friends, and the standing pleasures of the library and of Uncle Barnaby's fire-side conversations, the holidays glided away most happily. I do not recollect, during the whole month, one five minutes of idleness or ennui. This is more than can be said for the school vacations of many young people. Oh! I wish they had an Uncle Barnaby, or some such friend, to teach them, by example, the true secret of being always happy, by being always usefully and benevolently employed.
Before my return home, however, I received a great shock, in hearing of the alarming illness, and, a few days after, of the death of our kind, but dilatory nurse, Mrs. Harris. She had complained of a severe cold and of being otherwise indisposed, and had been repeatedly entreated, by the other servants, to use some simple domestic measures for obtaining relief. Every morning she was asked whether she had taken any medicine, or used the means suggested. The reply on each occasion was, “No; but I will see about doing something tonight.” But while she was delaying, disease was rapidly gaining ground on her frame; and, when a medical man was called in, he immediately
expressed his apprehensions as to the result. These apprehensions were fatally confirmed; and, as my dear father observed, in his letter to my uncle, “ Thus this poor woman has fallen a martyr to seeing about her duty, instead of setting about it.”
This remark took a strong hold on my mind; and, when my first feelings of agitation and grief had somewhat subsided, I asked my uncle to tell cousin Frank and me exactly what he meant by the phrase, “ I'll see about it.” “I am sure, uncle,” said I,“ you mean something very different from what poor Mrs. Harris did, if she had any meaning at all; and yet you do not always set about a thing directly you have said you will see about it.”
“Well,” replied my uncle, “I think the phrase, when properly used, serves as a caveat both against rashness and delay. “I will see about it;' that is, I will begin nothing without due consideration, whether I can do it, whether I ought to do it, whether I had better do it, and what means I shall employ for doing it. The result of this examination sometimes is that of leading me to see that the thing had better be let alone. This can be done directly, and no more time, thought, or feeling wasted upon it. For want of such consideration, many enterprises unduly begun are soon broken off in disappointment. But, on the other hand, having thus satisfied myself that the thing in question is lawful, desirable, and practicable, and having arranged the means by which it is to be effected, when I say "I will see about it,' I bind myself to employ my attention and energies in accomplishing, with the least possible delay, the matter I have undertaken; and this, as far as I
can judge from experience, is the only way of bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion, and being at liberty to set about something new. I know two persons who are now in a state of confirmed derangement, the consequence of their own lamentable habit of delaying to set about that which they knew ought to be done. The one is a tradesman, who, though conscious that his affairs ought to be looked into and set to rights, yet suffered them to go neglected, until ruin was inevitable; and then the poverty and misery he had inflicted on his wife and children, so overwhelmed his spirits, that his rational powers gave way. The other is a lady, who lost her only child by the small-pox, after having said, from month to month, that it was high time to see about having him vaccinated. I am acquainted, also, with an amiable couple, on whom, before their marriage, I pressed the duty of maintaining family prayer. I endeavoured to obtain from them a promise to begin on the very night when they first took possession of their habitation as heads of a family ; but I could gain no more than, We will see about it. Many times have I visited them, and scarcely ever without hearing an expression of regret and remorse at the continued omission of what they fully perceive to be a duty, and a repetition of the vague intimation, • But I hope it will not always be so: we must see about it.' I know many persons—and I hope that neither of you, my dear boys, will add to the number—who never for a moment attempt to deny or doubt the infinite importance of the soul's salvation, and the imperative necessity of seeking and striving to secure it, who, nevertheless, content themselves from day to day, and from year to year,
with languid resolutions to see about it, while they never set about it in right earnest; and thus, probably, they will continue to procrastinate till they are convinced of their folly by their ruin.
“The phrase, then, of which you have asked me the meaning, in its best and proper sense, signifies consideration and action ; but, in its worst and common acceptation, it is only another name for procrastination and neglect.”