Read CHAPTER XXI. of Now or Never, free online book, by Oliver Optic, on ReadCentral.com.

IN WHICH BOBBY STEPS OFF THE STAGE, AND THE AUTHOR MUST FINISH “NOW OR NEVER.”

The few days which Bobby remained at home before entering upon the duties of his new situation were agreeably filled up in calling upon his many friends, and in visiting those pleasant spots in the woods and by the river, which years of association had rendered dear to him.  His plans for the future too, occupied some of his time, though, inasmuch as his path of duty was already marked out, these plans were but little more than a series of fond imaginings; in short, little more than day dreams.  I have before hinted that Bobby was addicted to castle building, and I should pity the man or boy who was not-who had no bright dream of future achievements, of future usefulness.  “As a man thinketh, so is he,” the Psalmist tells us, and it was the pen of inspiration which wrote it.  What a man pictures as his ideal of that which is desirable in this world and the world to come, he will endeavor to attain.  Even if it be no higher aim than the possession of wealth or fame, it is good and worthy as far as it goes.  It fires his brain, it nerves his arm.  It stimulates him to action, and action is the soul of progress.  We must all work; and this world were cold and dull if it had no bright dreams to be realized.  What Napoleon dreamed, he labored to accomplish, and the monarchs of Europe trembled before him.  What Howard wished to be, he labored to be; his ideal was beautiful and true, and he raised a throne which will endure through eternity.

Bobby dreamed great things.  That bright picture of the little black house transformed into a white cottage, with green blinds, and surrounded by a pretty fence, was the nearest object; and before Mrs. Bright was aware that he was in earnest, the carpenters and the painters were upon the spot.

“Now or never,” replied Bobby to his mother’s remonstrance.  “This is your home, and it shall be the pleasantest spot upon earth, if I can make it so.”

Then he had to dream about his business in Boston and I am not sure but that he fancied himself a rich merchant, like Mr. Bayard, living in an elegant house in Chestnut Street, and having clerks and porters to do as he bade them.  A great many young men dream such things, and though they seem a little silly when spoken out loud, they are what wood and water are to the steam engine-they are the mainspring of action.  Some are stupid enough to dream about these things, and spend their time in idleness, and dissipation, waiting for “the good time coming.”  It will never come to them.  They are more likely to die in the almshouse or the state prison, than to ride in their carriages; for constant exertion is the price of success.

Bobby enjoyed himself to the utmost of his capacity during these few days of respite from labor.  He spent a liberal share of his time at Squire Lee’s where he was almost as much at home as in his mother’s house.  Annie read Moore’s Poems to him, till he began to have quite a taste for poetry himself.

In connection with Tom Spicer’s continued absence, which had to be explained, Bobby’s trials in the eastern country leaked out, and the consequence was, that he became a lion in Riverdale.  The minister invited him to tea, as well as other prominent persons, for the sake of hearing his story; but Bobby declined the polite invitations from sheer bashfulness.  He had not brass enough to make himself a hero; besides, the remembrance of his journey was any thing but pleasant to him.

On Monday morning he took the early train for Boston, and assumed the duties of his situation in Mr. Bayard’s store.  But as I have carried my hero through the eventful period of his life, I cannot dwell upon his subsequent career.  He applied himself with all the energy of his nature to the discharge of his duties.  Early in the morning and late in the evening he was at his post, Mr. Bigelow was his friend from the first, and gave him all the instruction he required.  His intelligence and quick perception soon enabled him to master the details of the business, and by the time he was fifteen, he was competent to perform any service required of him.

By the advice of Mr. Bayard, he attended an evening school for six months in the year, to acquire a knowledge of book keeping, and to compensate for the opportunities of which he had been necessarily deprived in his earlier youth.  He took Dr. Franklin for his model, and used all his spare time in reading good books, and in obtaining such information and such mental culture as would fit him to be, not only a good merchant, but a good and true man.

Every Saturday night he went home to Riverdale to spend the Sabbath with his mother.  The little black house no longer existed, for it had become the little paradise of which he had dreamed, only that the house seemed whiter, the blinds greener, and the fence more attractive than his fancy had pictured them.  His mother, after a couple of years, at Bobby’s earnest pleadings, ceased to close shoes and take in washing; but she had enough and to spare, for her son’s salary was now six hundred dollars.  His kind employer boarded him for nothing, (much against Bobby’s will, I must say,) so that every month he carried to his mother thirty dollars, which more than paid her expenses.

Eight years have passed by since Bobby-we beg his pardon; he is now Mr. Robert Bright-entered the store of Mr. Bayard.  He has passed from the boy to the man.  Over the street door a new sign has taken the place of the old one, and the passer-by reads,-

  BAYARD & BRIGHT,
  BOOKSELLERS AND PUBLISHERS.

The senior partner resorts to his counting room every morning from the force of habit; but he takes no active part in the business.  Mr. Bright has frequent occasion to ask his advice, though every thing is directly managed by him; and the junior is accounted one of the ablest, but at the same time one of the most honest, business men in the city.  His integrity has never been sacrificed, even to the emergencies of trade.  The man is what the boy was; and we can best sum up the results of his life by saying that he has been true to himself, true to his friends and true to his God.

Mrs. Bright is still living at the little white cottage, happy in herself and happy in her children.  Bobby-we mean Mr. Bright-has hardly missed going to Riverdale on a Saturday night since he left home, eight years before.  He has the same partiality for those famous apple pies, and his mother would as soon think of being without bread as being without apple pies when he comes home.

Of course Squire Lee and Annie were always glad to see him when he came to Riverdale; and for two years it had been common talk in Riverdale that our hero did not go home on Sunday evening when the clock struck nine.  But as this is a forbidden topic, we will ask the reader to go with us to Mr. Bayard’s house in Chestnut Street.

What!  Annie Lee here?

No; but as you are here, allow me to introduce Mrs. Robert Bright.

They were married a few months before, and Mr. Bayard insisted that the happy couple should make their home at his house.

But where is Ellen Bayard?

O, she is Mrs. Bigelow now, and her husband is at the head of a large book establishment in New York.

Bobby’s dream had been realised, and he was the happiest man in the world-at least he thought so, which is just the same thing.  He had been successful in business; his wife-the friend and companion of his youth, the brightest filament of the bright vision his fancy had woven-had been won, and the future glowed with brilliant promises.

He had been successful; but neither nor all of the things we have mentioned constituted his highest and truest success-not his business prosperity, not the bright promise of wealth in store for him, not his good name among men, not even the beautiful and loving wife who had cast her lot with his to the end of time.  These were successes, great and worthy, but not the highest success.

He had made himself a man,-this was his real success,-a true, a Christian man.  He had lived a noble life.  He had reared the lofty structure of his manhood upon a solid foundation-principle.  It is the rock which the winds of temptation and the rains of selfishness cannot move.

Robert Bright is happy because he is good.  Tom Spicer, now in the state prison, is unhappy,-not because he is in the state prison, but because the evil passions of his nature are at war with the peace of his soul.  He has fed the good that was within him upon straw and husks, and starved it out.  He is a body only; the soul is dead in trespasses and sin.  He loves no one, and no one loves him.

During the past summer, Mr. Bright and his lady took a journey “down east.”  Annie insisted upon visiting the State Reform School; and her husband drove through the forest by which he had made his escape on that eventful night.  Afterwards they called upon Sam Ray, who had been “dead sure that Bobby would one day be a great man.”  He was about the same person, and was astonished and delighted when our hero introduced himself.

They spent a couple of hours in talking over the past, and at his departure, Mr. Bright made him a handsome present in such a delicate manner that he could not help accepting it.

Squire Lee is still as hale and hearty as ever, and is never so happy as when Annie and her husband come to Riverdale to spend the Sabbath.  He is fully of the opinion that Mr. Bright is the greatest man on the western continent, and he would not be in the least surprised if he should be elected president of the United States one of these days.

The little merchant is a great merchant now.  But more than this, he is a good man.  He has formed his character, and he will probably die as he has lived.

Reader, if yon have any good work to do, do it now, for with you it may be “NOW OR NEVER.”