We thoroughly enjoyed this little business affair, and I can still close my eyes, and distinctly see the gentle and dignified birds walking quietly along the brook and through the woods, cautiously stealing the way to their nests. To this day I enjoy the sight of a flock of turkeys, and never miss an opportunity of studying them.
My mother was a good deal of a disciplinarian, and upheld the standard of the family with a birch switch when it showed a tendency to deteriorate. Once, when I was being punished for some unfortunate doings which had taken place in the village school, I felt called upon to explain after the whipping had begun that I was innocent of the charge.
“Never mind,” said my mother, “we have started in on this whipping, and it will do for the next time.” This attitude was maintained to its final conclusion in many ways. One night, I remember, we boys could not resist the temptation to go skating in the moonlight, notwithstanding the fact that we had been expressly forbidden to skate at night. Almost before we got fairly started we heard a cry for help, and found a neighbour, who had broken through the ice, was in danger of drowning. By pushing a pole to him we succeeded in fishing him out, and restored him safe and sound to his grateful family. As we were not generally expected to save a man’s life every time we skated, my brother William and I felt that there were mitigating circumstances connected with this particular disobedience which might be taken into account in the final judgment, but this idea proved to be erroneous.
Although the plan had been to send me to college, it seemed best at sixteen that I should leave the high school in which I had nearly completed the course and go into a commercial college in Cleveland for a few months. They taught bookkeeping and some of the fundamental principles of commercial transactions. This training, though it lasted only a few months, was very valuable to me. But how to get a job—that was the question. I tramped the streets for days and weeks, asking merchants and storekeepers if they didn’t want a boy; but the offer of my services met with little appreciation. No one wanted a boy, and very few showed any overwhelming anxiety to talk with me on the subject. At last one man on the Cleveland docks told me that I might come back after the noonday meal. I was elated; it now seemed that I might get a start.
I was in a fever of anxiety lest I should lose this one opportunity that I had unearthed. When finally at what seemed to me the time, I presented myself to my would-be employer:
“We will give you a chance,” he said, but not a word passed between us about pay. This was September 26, 1855. I joyfully went to work. The name of the firm was Hewitt & Tuttle.
In beginning the work I had some advantages. My father’s training, as I have said, was practical, the course at the commercial college had taught me the rudiments of business, and I thus had a groundwork to build upon. I was fortunate, also, in working under the supervision of the bookkeeper, who was a fine disciplinarian, and well disposed toward me.