Read CHAPTER VI - A MERRY HEART of The Girl Wanted , free online book, by Nixon Waterman, on

Who among us can presume to estimate the value of a merry heart? What a perpetual blessing it is to its possessor and to all who must come into close relationship with the owner of it!

There is nothing more pleasantly “catching” than happiness. The happy person serves to make all about him or her the more happy. What the bright, inspiring sunshine adds to the beauty of the fields, a happy disposition adds to the charm of all the incidents and experiences of one’s daily life.

Do not you, whose eyes are perusing these lines, love to associate with a friend possessing a cheerful disposition? And do you not intuitively refrain from meeting with the unfortunate one whose looks and words are heavy with complainings or whose eyes fail to see the beauty of the world lying all about? And if we are given to wise thinking we must reach the conclusion that as we regard these attributes in others, so others must regard them in us.

Nothing is more eloquent than a beautiful face. It is the open sesame to all our hearts. A sunshiny face melts away all opposition and finds the word “Welcome” written over the doorways where the face wearing a hard, unfriendly look sees only the warning, “No Admittance.”

But a smile that is only skin deep is not a true smile, but only a superficial grin. A true smile comes all the way from the heart. It bears its message of good will and friendliness. It is a mute salutation of “good luck and happy days to you!” and it makes whoever receives it better and stronger for the hour.

The genuine smile is closely related to, and is a part of, that laughter which beams and sparkles in the eye and makes the little, cheerful, smiling lines in the face that are so quickly and easily distinguished from the lines that are the outward sign of an unhappy spirit within.

Many centuries ago that wise and admirable philosopher, Epictetus, discovered that “happiness is not in strength, or wealth, or power; or all three. It lies in ourselves, in true freedom, in the conquest of every ignoble fear, in perfect self-government, in a power of contentment and peace, and the even flow of life, even in poverty, exile, disease and the very valley of the shadow.”

One of the happiest observers of life and its higher purposes Anne Gilchrist says: “I used to think it was great to disregard happiness, to press to a high goal, careless, disdainful of it. But now I see there is nothing so great as to be capable of happiness, to pluck it out of each moment, and, whatever happens, to find that one can ride as gay and buoyant on the angry, menacing, tumultuous waves of life as on those that glide and glitter under a clear sky; that it is not defeat and wretchedness which comes out of the storms of adversity, but strength and calmness.”

The strongest incentive for the cultivation of a merry heart is that it is a duty as well as a delight. Sydney Smith has very wisely observed that “mankind is always happier for having been happy; so that if you make them happy now, you may make them happy twenty years hence by the memory of it.”

True happiness has about it no suggestion of selfishness. The genuinely happy person is the one who would have all the world to be happy. “Is there any happiness in the world like the happiness of a disposition made happy by the happiness of others?” asks Faber. “There is no joy to be compared with it. The luxuries which wealth can buy, the rewards which ambition can obtain, the pleasures of art and scenery, the abounding sense of health and the exquisite enjoyment of mental creations are nothing to this pure and heavenly happiness, where self is drowned in the blessings of others.”

One of the most heavenly attributes of happiness is that it begets more happiness not only in ourselves but in others about us. It has in it an uplift and a strength that enables us to build the stronger to-day against the distress that would beset us to-morrow.

“Health and happiness” are terms that are so often closely linked in our speech and in our literature. One is almost a synonym for the other. Perhaps the true significance existing between the two would be more correctly stated were we to reverse the form in which they are usually set forth and say “happiness and health” instead. All observers of human nature and its many complex attributes are convinced that happiness is the fountain spring of health.

One of our keenest students of life tells us that “small annoyances are the seeds of disease. We cannot afford to entertain them. They are the bacteria, the germs that make serious disturbance in the system, and prepare the way for all dérangements. They furnish the mental conditions which are manifested later in the blood, the tissues, and the organs, under various pathological names. Good thoughts are the only germicide. We must kill our resentment and regret, impatience and anxiety. Health will inevitably follow. Every thought that holds us in even the slightest degree to either anticipation or regret hinders, to some extent, the realization of our present good. It limits freedom. Life is in the present tense. Its significant name is Being.”

Whether we are happy or not depends much on our point of view. The disposition to look at everything through kind and beautiful eyes makes all the world more kind and beautiful. If we are gloomy within the whole world appears likewise. Perhaps the two ways of looking at things could not be better set forth than in these clever lines by E. J. Hardy:

“How dismal you look!” said a bucket to his companion, as they were going to the well.

“Ah!” replied the other, “I was reflecting on the uselessness of our being filled, for, let us go away never so full, we always come back empty.”

“Dear me! how strange to look on it that way!” said the other bucket; “now I enjoy the thought that however empty we come, we always go away full. Only look at it in that light and you will always be as cheerful as I am.”

The difference between the pessimist and the optimist is in their


Because each rose must have its thorn,
The pessimist Fate’s plan opposes;
The optimist, more gladly born,
Rejoices that the thorns have roses.

Since our happiness is merely the reflex influence of the happiness we make for others it would seem as though the joy of our lives dwells within our own keeping. “The universe,” says Zimmerman, “pays every man in his own coin; if you smile, it smiles upon you in return; if you frown, you will be frowned at; if you sing, you will be invited into gay company; if you think, you will be entertained by thinkers; if you love the world, and earnestly seek for the good therein, you will be surrounded by loving friends, and nature will pour into your lap the treasures of the earth.”

All of this being true we must early learn to seize upon opportunities for making others happy if we, ourselves, would get the most and highest enjoyment from life. “There are gates that swing within your life and mine,” writes “Amber,” that good woman of sainted memory, “letting in rare opportunities from day to day, that tarry but a moment and are gone, like travelers bound for points remote. There is the opportunity to resist the temptation to do a mean thing! Improve it, for it is in a hurry, like the man whose ticket is bought and whose time is up. It won’t be back this way, either, for opportunities for good are not like tourists who travel on return tickets. There is the opportunity to say a pleasant word to the ones within the sound of your voice. All of the priceless opportunities travel by lightning express and have no time to idle around the waiting-room. If we improve them at all it must be when the gate swings to let them through.”

It is in living not for ourselves alone but for others that we are to find the larger and truer happiness of life. Says Jenkin Lloyd Jones, “I would rather live in an alley, stayed all round with human loves, associations and ambitions, than dwell in a palace with drawbridge, moat, and portcullis, apart from the community about me, alienated from my neighbors, unable to share the woes and the joys of those with whom I divide nature’s bounty of land and landscape, of air and sky.” And along this same line of thinking, Charles Hargrove says: “Brother, sister, your mistake is to live alone in a crowded world, to think of yourself and your own belongings, and what is the matter with you, instead of trying to realize, what is the fact that you are a member of a great human society, and that your true interests are one with those of the world which will go on much the same however it fare with you. Live the larger life, and you will find it the happier.”

So one of the chief aims of your life and of mine should be to find happiness and to see to it that others find it as well. And let us not wait to find happiness in one great offering, but let us discover it whenever and wherever we can. Let us carefully study our surroundings to see if it is not hiding all about us. “Very few things,” says Lecky, “contribute so much to the happiness of life as a constant realization of the blessings we enjoy. The difference between a naturally contented nature and a naturally discontented one is one of the marked differences of innate temperament, but we can do much to cultivate that habit of dwelling on the benefits of our lot which converts acquiescence into a more positive enjoyment.”

Nothing can do more to add to our happiness of mind than to cultivate the gracious habit of being grateful for joys that come to us and to seek to appreciate the worth of the beneficent gifts that are ever being showered upon us. We are so apt to fall into the habit of accepting blessings as a matter of course and of failing to discover their wonderful value. How many of us, for example, have ever thoughtfully dwelt upon the priceless attributes of the air that is ever and always floating about us. In order that we may have a truer appreciation of its fine qualities and purposes let us read these words by Lord Avebury:

“Fresh air, how wonderful it is! It permeates all our body, it bathes the skin in a medium so delicate that we are not conscious of its presence, and yet so strong that it wafts the odors of flowers and fruit into our rooms, carries our ships over the seas, the purity of sea and mountain into the heart of our cities. It is the vehicle of sound, it brings to us the voices of those we love and the sweet music of nature; it is the great reservoir of the rain which waters the earth, it softens the heat of day and the cold of night, covers us overhead with a glorious arch of blue, and lights up the morning and evening skies with fire. It is so exquisitely soft and pure, so gentle and yet so useful, that no wonder Ariel is the most delicate, lovable and fascinating of all Nature Spirits.”

It is only when we open our eyes to the beauty of the wonders about us that we see how much there is to contribute to our happiness if we will but open our hearts and let it come in. What a perpetual exaltation nature will afford us when we have cultivated the fine habit of looking upon it with the welcoming eyes through which Richard Jefferies beholds it: “The whole time in the open air,” he tells us, “resting at mid-day under the elms with the ripple of heat flowing through the shadow; at midnight between the ripe corn and the hawthorne hedge or the white camomile and the poppy pale in the duskiness, with face upturned to the thoughtful heaven. Consider the glory of it, the life above this life to be obtained from constant presence with the sunlight and the stars.”

So let us cultivate the fine habit of finding joy and of shouting it to our friends and neighbors. Life seems bright to us when we are really glad of anything and we let gladness have voice to express itself. George MacDonald says “a poet is a man who is glad of something and tries to make other people glad of it, too.” In the possession of this kindly spirit, at least, we must all strive to be poets.

Emerson tells us that “there is one topic positively forbidden to all well-bred, to all rational mortals, namely, their distempers. If you have not slept, or if you have headache, or sciatica, or leprosy, or thunder stroke, I beseech you, by all the angels, to hold your peace, and not pollute the morning, to which all the housemates bring serene and pleasant thoughts, by corruption and groans.”

The fine tonic effect of a bright, happy face smiling across the breakfast table is known to all the world. Better a feast of corn bread and a cheerful countenance than fruit cake and a sour temperament.

So I feel very sure that you, my dear young lady, for whom these lines are written, are never going to appear at the breakfast table with aught other than a bright cheery face and a pleasant word for all about you. Some one has said that the first hour of the day is the critical one. Happy is the person who can wake with a song, or who can at least hold back the fears and the grumbles until a thought of gladness has established itself as the keynote of the day.

“Assume a virtue, if you have it not,” says Shakespeare. While as a rule it is deemed wrong to assume to possess any virtue that we do not possess, we may and no doubt should, at times, appear to be happy even though we may feel more like indulging in lamentations. To come to the breakfast table enumerating a list of real or imaginary ailments is a most ill-advised thing to do. We should endeavor to forget our troubles and above all we should be slow to give voice to them so that thereby they will be multiplied in the minds of others. It has been truly said that most people who are unhappy are really miserable and bring their misery to others because they allow the failures and discomforts to speak the first word in their souls. For misery is voluble and the little discomforts will turn us into their continual mouthpieces if we will give them a chance. But the truly thoughtful and considerate person will have none of them. Instead of displaying the flag of distress and surrender, the wiser method is to pull our courage and determination together and don


If through thick and through thin
You are eager to win,
Don’t go shrouded in Fear and in Doubt,
But with Hope and with Truth
And the blue sky of Youth
Go through life with the sunny side out.

So let us determine that we will cultivate the happy habit; for indeed even happiness is largely a habit. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If he thinks trouble, he is very likely to find it. If he thinks sickness, he is likely to be ill. If he thinks unkind things, he is quite sure to put them into the deeds of his daily life. The thought is the architect’s plans which the hands are likely to set about to build. To the one who thinks the weather is bad, it is sure to be disagreeable. To the one who seeks to find something pleasant about it, it is certain to offer some happy phases.

We must all answer “yes” to this question asked by one of our fine writers on our social amenities: “Don’t you get awfully tired of people who are always croaking? A frog in a big, damp, malarial pond is expected to make all the fuss he can in protest of his surroundings. But a man! Destined for a crown, and born that he may be educated for the court of a king! Placed in an emerald world with a hither side of opaline shadow, and a fine dust of diamonds to set it sparkling when winter days are flying; with ten million singing birds to make it musical, and twice ten million flowers to make it sweet; with countless stars to light it up with fiery splendor, and white, new moons to wrap it round with mystery; with other souls within it to love and make happy, and the hand of God to uphold it on its rushing way among the countless worlds that crowd its path; what right has man to find fault with such a world? When the woodtick shall gain a hearing, as he complains that the grand old century oak is unfit to shelter him, or the bluebird be harkened to when he murmurs that the horizon is off color, and does not match his wings, then, I think, it will be time for man to find fault with the appointments of the magnificent sphere in which he lives.”

Therefore let it be determined between us, right here and now, that come what may, we shall each of us endeavor to keep a merry heart and a pleasant face. As we love to see a happy expression on the faces of our parents, brothers, sisters and friends, so must they enjoy seeing a pleasant look overspreading our features. And with this good and kindly resolve in our minds it will never be difficult for us to decide whether we shall give to the good world about us the gladness or the gloom that is embodied in


If you were a bird and shut in a cage,
Now what would you better do,
Would you grieve your throat with a sorry note
And mourn the whole day through;
Or would you swing and chirp and sing,
Though the world were warped with wrong,
Till you filled one place with the perfect grace
And gladness of your song?

If you were a man and shut in a world,
Now what would you better do,
On a gloomy day, when skies were gray,
Would you be gloomy, too?
When crossed with care would you let despair
Life’s happy hope destroy,
Or with a smile work on the while
You found the path to joy?