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A short story by Anonymous

Try Again

Title:     Try Again
Author: Anonymous [More Titles by Anonymous]

"Have you finished your lesson, George?" said Mr. Prentice to a lad in his fourteenth year, who had laid aside his book, and was busily engaged in making a large paper kite.

"No, father," replied George, hanging down his head.

"Why not, my son?"

"Because it is so difficult, father. I am sure that I shall never learn to read Latin."

"And what is the reason that you cannot learn Latin?"

"Because--because I can't."

"Can't learn, George!"

"Indeed, I have tried my best," replied the boy earnestly, the tears starting to his eyes; "but it is no use, father. Other boys can get their lessons without any trouble; but I try, and try, but still I cannot learn them."

"I 'cannot,' is a word no boy should ever utter in reference to learning. You can learn anything you please, George, if you only persevere."

"But not Latin, father."

"Yes, Latin."

"But have I not tried, and tried, father?"

"Yes; but you must try once more."

"And so I have, father."

"Well, try again, and again; never say you cannot learn a lesson."

"But then I cannot remember it after I have learned it, my memory is so bad," urged the lad.

"If I were to promise you a holiday on the thirtieth of the month after the next, do you think that you would forget it?"

"No, I am pretty sure that I should not."

"And why, George?"

"I can't exactly tell the reason; but I know I should remember it."

[Illustration: GEORGE AND HIS FATHER.]

"Well, I can tell you. The pleasure you would take in the idea of having a holiday, would keep the date of it fresh in your memory. Now, if you were to take the same delight in learning that you do in playing, you would find no difficulty. You play at marbles well, I believe?"

"Oh yes, father; I beat every boy at school!"

"And your brother tells me that your kite flies highest; and that you are first in skating?"

"Yes, my kite always flies the best; and I can cut every figure, from one to nine, and form every letter in the alphabet, on the ice."

"You are very fond of skating, and flying your kite, and playing at ball and marbles?"

"Yes, father; too fond, I believe, for a boy of my age."

"And yet you cannot learn your Latin lesson. My dear boy, you are deceiving yourself; you can learn as well as any one, if you will only try."

"But have I not tried, father?" again urged George.

"Well, try again. Come, lay aside that kite you are making for this afternoon, and give another effort to get your lesson ready. Be in earnest, and you will soon learn it. To show you that it only requires perseverance, I will tell you a story. One of the dullest boys at a village school, more than thirty years ago, came up to repeat his lesson one morning, and, as usual, did not know it. 'Go to your seat, you blockhead!' said the teacher, pettishly. 'You will never be fit for anything but a scavenger. I wonder what they send such a stupid dunce here for!'

"The poor dispirited boy stole off to his seat, and bent his eyes again upon his lesson.

"'It is no use. I cannot learn,' he said in a whisper to a companion who sat near him.

"'You must try hard,' replied the sympathizing and kind-hearted boy.

"'I have tried, and it is no use. I may just as well give it up at once.'

"'Try again, Henry!' whispered his companion in an earnest and encouraging tone.

[Illustration: TRY AGAIN.]

"These two little words gave him a fresh impulse, and he bent his mind with renewed effort to his task. It was only the simple memorizing of a grammar lesson--not difficult by any means. The concentration of his mind upon the task was more earnest and fixed than usual; gradually he began to find the sentences lingering in his memory, and soon, to his surprise and pleasure, the whole lesson was mastered. With a livelier motion and a more confident manner than he had ever before exhibited in going up to say a lesson, he rose from his seat and proceeded to the teacher's desk.

"'What do you want now?' asked that person, harshly.

"'To say my lesson, sir.'

"'Go off to your seat!--Did you not try half-an-hour ago?'

"'Yes; but I can say it now, sir,' timidly urged the boy.

"'Go on, then; and if you miss a sentence, you shall have six bad marks.'

"Henry commenced, and said off the whole lesson rapidly, without missing a word. The master cast on him a look of pleasure, as he handed him back his book, but said nothing. As the boy returned to his seat, his step was lighter, for his heart beat with a new impulse.

"'Did you say it?' whispered his kind-hearted school-mate.

"'Every word,' replied the boy proudly.

"'Then you see you can learn.'

"'Yes; but it is hard work.'

"'But there is nothing like trying.'

"'No; and from this hour,' replied Henry firmly, 'I will never say I cannot.'

"From that day," continued Mr. Prentice, "there was no boy in the school who learned more rapidly than Henry. It required much thought and application; but these he gave cheerfully, and success crowned his efforts."

"And did he always continue thus to learn?" asked George, looking up into his father's face.

"From that day, to the present hour, he has been a student; and now urges his son George to 'try again,' as he tried."

"And was it indeed you, father?" asked his son, eagerly looking up into the face of his kind parent.

"Yes, my child; that dull boy was your own father in his early years."

"Then I will try again," said George, in a decided tone; and flinging aside his half-made kite, he turned and re-entered the house, and was soon bending in earnest attention over his Latin grammar.

* * * * *

"Well, what success, George?" asked Mr. Prentice, as the family gathered around the well-furnished tea-table.

"I've got the lesson, father!" replied the boy. "I can say every word of it."

"You found it pretty hard work?"

"Not so very hard after I had once made up my mind that I would learn it. Indeed, I never stopped to think, as I usually do, about it being difficult or tiresome; but went right on until I had mastered every sentence."

"May you never forget this lesson, my son!" said Mr. Prentice feelingly. "You possess now the secret of success. It lies in your never stopping to think about a task being difficult or tiresome; but in going on steadily in the performance of it, with a fixed determination to succeed. Within a short time you have mastered a task that you despaired of ever learning at all. And now, George, remember, never again utter the words, I can't."

The success that had rewarded his own determined efforts, united with the impulse that the simple reference of his father to his own early difficulties gave to his mind, was sufficient to make George a rapid learner from that day. He became interested in his studies, and therefore he succeeded in them. When he left college, at the age of eighteen, he bore with him the highest honours of the institution, and the respect of his teachers. He now entered the house of a merchant, to prepare for a business life. At first, his new occupation was by no means pleasant. The change from books and studies to busy life, and the dull details of trade, as he called them, was for a time exceedingly irksome.

"I shall never make a merchant, I fear," he said to his father one evening, when he felt unusually wearied with his occupation.

"And why not, George?" asked Mr. Prentice kindly.

"I have no taste for it," replied the young man.

"That is a poor reason. Is it not an honest and honourable calling?"


"And are you not convinced that it is necessary for you to follow some occupation? I gave you a choice of professions; but you preferred, you said, a mercantile life."

"Yes. And still, when I reflect on the subject, my preference is for a mercantile life."

"Then, George, you must compel yourself to be interested in your new pursuit."

"I have tried, father."

"Then, try again!" replied Mr. Prentice, with peculiar emphasis, at the same time casting a significant glance at his son.

These simple words thrilled through the mind of George Prentice. The past rose up before him, with its doubts, its difficulties, and its triumphs. Springing suddenly to his feet, he said with emphasis,----

"I will try again."

"And you will succeed."

"Yes; I feel that I shall."

And he did succeed in obtaining a thorough practical knowledge of business; for he applied himself with patient and fixed determination, and soon became interested in his new pursuits.

At the age of twenty-five, he entered into business for himself, with a small capital furnished him by his father. The house in which he had been employed was engaged in the West India trade, and as his familiarity with this line of business was more intimate than with any other, he determined to turn his little capital in that direction. Accordingly, after renting a small warehouse on one of the principal wharves, he proceeded to freight a vessel with all the prudence that an intimate knowledge of the West India markets afforded him. But, alas! misfortune sometimes comes to us when least expected and least deserved. Two days before his vessel arrived, the market had been overstocked by shipments from other countries, and a large loss, instead of the anticipated profits, was the result.

For some days after this disheartening news reached him, he gave way to desponding thoughts. But soon he bent his mind to a new adventure. In this he was more successful; but as the investment had been small, the profit was inconsiderable. His next shipment was large, involving at least two-thirds of his capital. The policy of insurance safe in his fire-closet, the young merchant deemed himself secure against total loss. For wise purposes, God often sees fit to frustrate our hopes, and make the best-laid schemes of success or security fail. Two months from the day on which the vessel sailed, news arrived that she had been wrecked, and the whole cargo lost. Nor was this all. Some informality or neglect of the captain vitiated the insurance, and the underwriters refused to pay. A suit was commenced against them, which occupied from six to eight months before a decision could be obtained.

Nearly a twelvemonth from the day the unfortunate adventure was made, George Prentice sat musing in his counting-room, his mind busy with unpleasant and desponding thoughts. He had done little or no business since the news of his loss had reached him, for he had but a remnant of his capital to work upon, and no heart to risk that. He was "holding off," as they say, until some decision was made in the suit pending with the underwriters. While he thus sat in deep thought, a letter from his agent in London, where the insurance had been effected, was handed to him. He tore it open eagerly. The first brief sentence--"We have lost our suit"--almost unmanned him.

"Ruined!--ruined!" he mentally ejaculated, throwing the letter upon his desk as he finished reading it. "What shall I do?"

"Try again!" a voice seemed to whisper in his ear.

He started and looked around.

"Try again," it repeated; and this time he perceived that the voice was within him. For a moment he paused, many thoughts passing rapidly through his mind.

"I will try again!" he exclaimed, rising to his feet.

And he did try. This time he examined the condition of the markets with the most careful scrutiny--ascertained the amount of shipments within the preceding four months from all the principal continental cities; and then, by the aid of his correspondents, learned the expeditions that were getting up, and the articles, and quantities of each, composing the cargoes. Knowing the monthly consumption of the various foreign products at the port to which he purposed making a shipment, he was satisfied that a cargo of flour, if run in immediately, would pay a handsome profit. He at once hired a vessel, the captain of which he knew could be depended on for strict obedience to instructions, and freighted her with flour. The vessel sailed, and the young merchant awaited with almost trembling expectation the news of her arrival out. He had adventured his all; and the result must be success, or the utter prostration of his hopes.

In anxious expectation he waited week after week, until every day seemed to him prolonged to double its number of hours. At last a letter came from his consignee. He almost trembled as he broke the seal.

"Your flour has arrived at the very best time," it commenced. For a few moments he could read no further. He was compelled to pause, lest the emotion he felt should be betrayed to those around him. Then he read the whole letter calmly through. It stated that the supply of flour was nearly exhausted when his cargo arrived, which had been promptly sold at fourteen shillings a barrel above the last quotations.

"I shall clear nearly five hundred pounds by my last shipment," he said to his father, who entered the counting-room at the moment.

"Indeed! well I am very glad to hear you say so, George. I hope, after this, you will be more successful."

"I hope that I shall: but I had nearly given up in despair," the son remarked.

"But you thought you would try again!" observed the old gentleman, smiling.

"Exactly so, father."

"That was right, George. Never despair. Let 'Try again' be your motto at all times, and success will in the end attend your efforts."

His father was right. George Prentice is now a wealthy merchant. He is somewhat advanced in years, and is accounted by some a little eccentric. One evidence of this eccentricity is the fact, that over the range of desks in his counting-room is painted, in large letters, the words,--"TRY AGAIN."


Drive the nail aright, boys,
Hit it on the head;
Strike with all your might, boys,
While the iron's red.

When you've work to do, boys,
Do it with a will;
They who reach the top, boys,
First must climb the hill.

Standing at the foot, boys,
Gazing at the sky,
How can you get up, boys,
If you never try?

Though you stumble oft, boys,
Never be down-cast;
Try, and try again, boys,--
You'll succeed at last.

[The end]
Anonymous's short story: Try Again