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“ DO IT, AND IT WILL BE DONE.”
This was a favourite expression of my Uncle Barnaby; or rather, it was a frequent winding up of his directions or counsels, especially to young people. I have lived to see many instances of the good results attending a steady adherence to the habit which my uncle's often repeated hint had much to do in forming ; and I have seen the most unhappy consequences follow the neglect of it.
I consider it ungenerous and self-delusive to charge upon others the blame of our own faults; and yet, so intimate is the connexion between ourselves and those who surround us, and whose example we are in the habit of daily witnessing, that it is impossible to prevent the exercise of a mutual moral influence, or to free either party from sharing in the responsibility of the other. While fully conscious that neither the guilt nor the inconvenient consequences attending a bad habit can be shifted, I cannot help, in some degree connecting the formation of a habit which in my early years caused me much vexation and disgrace, with the influence of example to which I was continually exposed. The superintendent of our nursery was accustomed to postpone attention to duty with a promise to see about it.” To this circumstance
I trace my early disposition, when directed to do any thing, to satisfy myself with assenting and intending, and dismissing the subject from my mind without actually performing the thing required. Like the son in Scripture, on receiving the commands of my parents or master, I too often said, “I go, sir,” to perform them; but went not, Matt. xxi. 30. This arose not from a spirit of intentional disobedience, but from the beginning of a habit of procrastination. I feel thankful that it was in any degree successfully opposed ; I regret that any lurking remains of it should yet exist in my character ; and I would earnestly press on my young friends the wisdom of steadily resisting the first buddings of such a habit, and counteracting it by the adoption of Uncle Barnaby's better principle, “ Do it, and it will be done.' On
my first visit to my uncle, I was struck with the promptitude, order, and despatch of business which prevailed throughout the house, and formed a perfect contrast to the scene by which Mrs. Harris was surrounded. However, as was generally the case with fresh inmates in the family, I more than once came in for my uncle's admonition.
Cousin Frank was always condescending and good-humoured towards me; and accommodated himself to the wishes and capacities of a younger companion, in no ordinary degree. Still, however, he acted by a plan; and sometimes when I applied to him to join me in play, he would reply, “I cannot come now, Samuel : I shall be engaged for an hour or more with my exercise.” “What!” I inquired, “ have you to write exercises in holiday time?"
· Yes," replied Frank, “I must keep up my work, or I shall get behind-hand when I return
to school. Have you nothing to do in that way, Samuel ?”_"Only two of Esop's fables to translate.” “Had you not better set about doing them ?” · Yes, I can, to be sure ; but there is no hurry : they will not take me long to do, and we have more than three weeks to come of the holidays." My uncle came in, and heard the close of the conversation. My boy,” said he, “ let me advise you now, in the morning of your days, to cultivate a habit of never leaving till to-morrow, not merely what absolutely ought to be done to-day, but that which might as well be done to-day; do it, and it will be done.” On that occasion I took my uncle's advice, and I had no reason to regret it. I
got my slate, and set about translating one of the fables ; while thus engaged I felt very happy, and really interested in my work; it seemed no burden to me. By an hour's application two or three mornings, the thing was accomplished ; thus I had plenty of time to look it over, correct any little mistakes that had occurred in the translation, and neatly to copy it for showing up on my return. Then I had for nearly three weeks the positive pleasure of knowing that it was done. When an excursion was proposed, or a pleasant party of friends expected, there were no untranslated fables to haunt me, and prevent my enjoyment; and on my return to school, I was prepared at once to lay them before the master, and received his kind expressions of approbation. Besides, I had gained real improvement.
The sentiments of the fables were impressed on my mind, and the verbal corrections suggested by my uncle or Frank, fixed themselves on my memory, and advanced my knowledge of the language. And then, too,
the pleasing recollection of that affair often served as a stimulus on other occasions again to act upon my uncle's maxim, which had resulted in so much satisfaction. I frequently coupled with it the recollection of a former vacation, when I had only some trifling matter to commit to memory, but which had been deferred from day to day, and every pleasure embittered by the recollection, “ But my poem is not learned.” On the last evening before my return to school, I sat up to a late hour, yawning and weeping over my book, which, at last, overcome with weariness and disgust, I laid under my pillow, hoping to resume it with better success in the morning; then, a hurried glance was all that I could bestow upon it. At school it was blundered through in a disgraceful manner, and left no trace of improvement on my mind.
It was not always that I was wise enough to act upon my good uncle's maxim. My dear mother, who was an invalid, and tenderly anxious about her children, especially when absent, had desired to receive a letter from me on a certain day. It was my full intention to comply with her request. The matter was mentioned at breakfast time; my uncle
gave me a message which he wished me to communicate to my father, and added, “Now you had better do it, and it will be done." Frank was going that day to visit some schoolfellows of his: as the appointment had been made before my arrival, I was not invited. Besides, as Frank was to ride his pony, I could not conveniently accompany him ; so I had the day to myself to write the letter. Having seen my cousin mounted, I went to the library for writing materials ; but,
alas! I there happened to cast my eye on a book which contained a number of interesting experiments; I could not resist the temptation of trying only one—and only one more still flattering myself that plenty of time remained for writing my letter, until, to my utter astonishment, I heard the sound of the dinner bell. I resolved to slip away
from the table as soon as the cloth was removed, still hoping to accomplish my promise in due time for the postman. Unfortunately, a gentleman, accompanied by two little boys, called to see my uncle. They were invited to remain to dinner ; this prolonged the meal beyond its usual time, and then my uncle desired me to entertain the young gentlemen, so that I could not make my escape. The postman's horn was heard, my uncle laid his letters on the table, and desired me to fetch mine;
alas! I had not written a line of it. My uncle saw my confusion ; he said little, but evidently looked surprised and displeased. The postman could not wait, and my letter was obliged to be deferred till the next day. Oh the compunctious visitings that embittered my feelings, when I thought of my dear mother's disappointment and anxiety! I did, indeed, that evening write a letter of affectionate apology, but it had to lie by till the postman's next visit; and as it happened to be on Saturday, two days elapsed before it was on its way to soothe the wounded feelings of my tender parents. My uncle's message, also, which was of some consequence, was inconveniently delayed, and I really felt ashamed to look him in the face ; but my most distressing thoughts were about my mother. The return of the post painfully proved that my uneasiness on that score