Some years ago, in the city of Philadelphia, there lived an ingenious locksmith, named Amos Sparks. Skilled as a maker and repairer of locks, he was particularly celebrated for his dexterity in opening them, when it was necessary to do so in cases of emergency. Like many men of talent in other departments, Amos Sparks was poor. Though a very industrious and prudent man, with a small and frugal family, he merely obtained a comfortable subsistence, but he never seemed to accumulate property. Whether it was that he was not of the race of money-makers, whose instinctive desire of accumulation forces them to earn and hoard without a thought beyond the mere means of acquisition—or whether the time occupied by the prosecution of new inquiries into still undiscovered regions of his favourite pursuit, and in conversation with those who came to inspect and admire the fruits of his ingenuity, were the cause of his poverty, we cannot undertake to determine—but perhaps various causes combined to keep his finances low; and it was quite as notorious in the city that Amos Sparks was a poor man, as that he was an ingenious mechanic. But his business was sufficient for the supply of his wants and those of his family, and so he studied and worked on, and was content.
It happened that, in the autumn of 18—, a merchant in the city, whose business was extensive, and who had been bustling about the quay and on board his vessels all the morning, returned to his counting-house to lodge several thousand dollars in the Philadelphia bank, to renew some paper falling due that day; when, to his surprise, he had either lost or mislaid the key of his iron chest. After diligent search, with no success, he was led to conclude that, in drawing out his handkerchief, he had dropped the key in the street, or perhaps into the dock What was to be done? It was one o’clock—the bank closed at three, and there was no time to advertise the key, or to muster so large a sum of money as that required. In his perplexity the merchant thought of the poor locksmith. He had often heard of Amos Sparks; the case seemed one particularly adapted to a trial of his powers, and being a desperate one, if he could not furnish a remedy, where else were there reasonable expectations of succour? A clerk was hurried off for Amos, and having explained the difficulty, speedily reappeared, followed by the locksmith with his implements in his hand.
The job proved more difficult than had been anticipated, and, fearful of losing credit by the delay, the merchant offered five dollars’ reward to Amos if he would open the chest in as many minutes. Amos succeeded. The lock was picked, and the chest flew open. There the merchant’s treasures lay, but they were not yet in his possession. As he enjoyed but a poor reputation for uprightness of dealing, Amos could not trust to his promise of payment. Holding