Two boys, named Jacob Peters
and Ralph Gilpin were passing along Chestnut Street
one evening about ten years ago, when one of them,
stopped, and said,-
“Come, Ralph, let us have some
oysters. I’ve got a quarter.”
They were in front of an oyster-cellar.
“No,” replied Ralph, firmly.
“I’m not going down there.”
“I didn’t mean that we
should get anything to drink,” replied the other.
“No matter: they sell liquor,
and I don’t wish to be seen in such a place.”
said Jacob Peters, speaking with some warmth.
“It can’t hurt you to be seen there.
They sell oysters, and all we should go there for
would be to buy oysters. Come along. Don’t
be foolish!” And Jacob grasped the arm of Ralph,
and tried to draw him towards the refectory.
But Ralph stood immovable.
“What harm can it do?” asked Jacob.
“It might do at great deal of harm.”
“In what way?”
“By hurting my good name.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“I might be seen going in or
coming out by some one who know me, and who might
take it for granted that my visit, was for liquor.”
“Well, suppose he did?
He would be wrong in his inference; and what need
you care? A clear conscience, I have heard my
uncle say, is better than any man’s opinion,
good or bad.”
“I prefer the clear conscience
and the good opinion together, if I can secure both
at the same time,” said Ralph.
“O, you’re too afraid
of other people’s opinions,” replied Jacob,
in a sneering manner. “As for me, I’ll
try to do right and be right, and not bother myself
about what people may think. Come, are you going
to join me in a plate of oysters?”
“Very well. Good by.
I’m sorry you’re afraid to do right for
fear somebody may think you’re going to do wrong,”
and Jacob Peters descended to the oyster-cellar, while
Ralph Gilpin passed on his way homeward. As Jacob
entered the saloon he met a man who looked at him
narrowly, and as Jacob thought, with surprise.
He had seen this man before, but did not know his
A few weeks afterwards, the two boys,
who were neighbor, sat together planning a row-boat
excursion on the Schuylkill.
“We’ll have Harry Elder,
and Dick Jones, and Tom Forsyth,” said Jacob.
“No, not Tom Forsyth,” objected Ralph.
“Why not? He’s a splendid rower.”
“I don’t wish to be seen
in his company,” said Ralph. “He doesn’t
bear a good character.”
“O, well; that’s nothing to us.”
“I think it is a great deal
to us. We are judged by the company we keep.”
“Let people judge; who cares?” replied
Jacob; “not I.”
“Well, I do, then,” answered Ralph.
“I hate to see a boy so ’fraid of a shadow
as you are.”
“A tainted name is no shadow; but a real evil
to be afraid of.”
“I don’t see how our taking
Tom Forsyth along is going to taint your name, or
“He’s a bad boy,”
Ralph firmly objected. “He uses profane
language. You and I have both seen him foolish
from drink. And we know that he was sent home
from a good place, under circumstances that threw
suspicion on his honesty. This being so, I am
not going to be seen in his company. I think
too much of my good name.”
“But, Ralph,” urged Jacob,
in a persuasive manner, “he’s such a splendid
rower. Don’t be foolish about it; nobody’ll
see us. And we shall have such a grand time.
I’ll make him promise not to use a wicked word
“It’s no use to talk,
Jacob. I’m not going in company with Tom
Forsyth if I never go boating.”
“You’re a fool!” exclaimed Jacob,
losing his temper.
Ralph’s face burned with anger,
but he kept back the sharp words that sprung to his
lips, and after a few moments said, with forced composure,-
“There’s no use in you’re
getting mad about it, Jacob. If you prefer Tom
to me, very well. I haven’t set my heart
“I’ve spoken to Tom already,”
said Jacob, cooling off a little. “And
he’s promised to go; so there’s no getting
away from it. I’m sorry you’re so
The rowing party came off, but Ralph
was not of the number. As the boys were getting
into the boat at Fairmount, Jacob noticed two or three
men standing on the wharf; and on lifting his eyes
to the face of one of them, he recognized the same
individual who had looked at him so intently as he
entered the oyster saloon. The man’s eyes
rested upon him for a few moments, and then turned
to the boy, Tom Forsyth. Young Peters might have
been mistaken, but he thought he saw on the man’s
face a look of surprise and disapprobation. Somehow
or other he did not feel very comfortable in mind as
the boat pushed off from shore. Who was this
man? and why had he looked at him twice so intently,
and with something of disapproval in his face?
Jacob Peters was fifteen years old.
He had left school a few weeks before, and his father
was desirous of getting him into a large whole-sale
house, on Market Street. A friend was acquainted
with a member of the firm, and through his kind offices
he hoped to make the arrangement. Some conversation
had already taken place between the friend and merchant,
who said they wished another lad in the store, but
were very particular as to the character of their boys.
The friend assured him that Jacob was a lad of excellent
character; and depending on this assurance, a preliminary
engagement had been made, Jacob was to go into the
store just one week from the day on which he went
on the boating excursion. Both his own surprise
and that of his father may be imagined when a note
came, saying that the firm in Market Street had changed
its views in regard to a lad, and would not require
the services of Jacob Peters.
The father sent back a polite note,
expressing regret at the change of view, and asking
that his son should still be borne in mind, as he
would prefer that situation for him to any other in
the city. Jacob was the bearer of this note.
When he entered the store, the first person he met
was the man who looked at him so closely in the oyster
saloon and on the wharf at Fairmount. Jacob handed
him the note, which he opened and read, and then gave
him cold bow.
A glimpse of the truth passed through
Jacob’s mind. He had been misjudged, and
here was the unhappy result. His good name had
suffered, and yet he had done nothing actually wrong.
But boys, like men, are judged by the company they
keep and the places in which they are seen.
“I’m going into a store
next week,” said Ralph Gilpin, to his friend
Jacob, about a week afterwards.
“Where?” asked Jacob.
“On Market Street.”
“In what store?”
“In A. & L.’s,” replied Ralph.
“O, no!” ejaculated Jacob, his face flushing,
“Yes,” replied Ralph.
“I’m going to A. & L.’s. Father
got me the place. Don’t you think I’m
lucky? They’re very particular about the
boys they taking that store. Father says he considers
their choice of me quite a compliment. I’m
sure I feel proud enough about it.”
“Well, I think they acted very
meanly,” said Jacob, showing sonic anger.
“They promised father that I should have the
“Are you sure about that?” asked the young
“Certainly I am. I was
to go there this week. But they sent father a
note, saying they had changed their minds about a boy.”
“Perhaps,” suggested Ralph,
“it you were seen going into a drinking saloons
or in company with Tom Forsyth. You remember what
I said to you about preserving a good name.”
Jacob’s face colored, and his eyes fell to the
“O, that’s only your guess,”
he replied, tossing his head, and putting on an incredulous
look; but he felt in his heart that the suggestion
of Ralph was true.
It was over six months before Jacob
Peters was successful in getting a place, and then
he had to go into a third-rate establishment, where
the opportunity for advancement was small, and where
his associates were not of the best character.
The years passed on; and Ralph continued
as careful as in the beginning to preserve a good
name. He was not content simply with doing right;
but felt that it was a duty to himself, and to all
who might, in any way be dependent on him, to appear
right also. He was, therefore, particular in
regard to the company he kept and the places he visited.
Jacob, on the contrary, continued to let inclination
rather than prudence govern him in these matters.
His habits were probably as good as those of Ralph,
and his business capacity fully equal. But he
was not regarded with the same favor, for he was often
seen in company with young men known to be of loose
morals, and would occasionally, visit billiard-saloons,
tenpin-alleys, and other places where men of disreputable
character are found. His father, who observed
Jacob closely, remonstrated with him occasionally
as the boy advanced towards manhood; but Jacob put
on an independent air, and replied that he went on
the principle of being right with himself. “You
can’t,” he would say, “keep free
from misjudgment, do what you will. Men are always
more inclined to think evil of each other than good.
I do nothing that I’m ashamed of.”
So he continued to go where he pleased,
and to associate with whom he pleased, not caring
what people might say.
It is no very easy thing for as young
man to make his way in the world. All the avenues
to success are thickly crowded with men of talent,
industry, and energy, and many favorable circumstances
must conspire to help him who gets very far in advance.
Talent and industry are wanted in business, but the
passport of a good character must accompany them,
or they cannot be made rightly available to their
possessor. It is, therefore, of the first importance
to preserved a good name, for this, if united with
ability and industry, with double your chances of success
in life; for men will put confidence in you beyond
what they can in others, who do not stand so fairly
in common estimation.
In due time Ralph Gilpin and Jacob
Peters entered the world as men, but not at equal
advantage. They had learned the same business,
and were both well acquainted with its details; but
Ralph stood fairer in the eyes of business men, with
whom he had come in contact, because he had been more
careful about his reputation.
While Jacob was twenty-three years
of age, he was getting a salary of one thousand dollars
a year; but this was too small a sum to meet the demands
that had come upon him. His father, to whom he
was tenderly attached, had lost his health and failed
in business. In consequence of this, the burden
of maintaining the family fell almost entirely on
Jacob. It would not have been felt as a burden
if his income had been sufficient for their support.
But it was not, unless their comfortable style of
living was changed, and all shrunk together in a smaller
house. He had sisters just advancing towards
womanhood, and for their sakes, particularly, did he
regret the stern necessity that required a change.
About this time, the death of a responsible
clerk in the house of A. & L. left a vacancy to be
filled, and as Jacob was in every way competent to
take the position, which commanded a salary of eighteen
hundred dollars he made application; Ralph Gilpin,
who was a salesman in the house, said all that he
could in Jacob’s favor; but the latter had not
been careful to preserve a good name, and this was
against him. The place was one of trust, and the
members of the firm, after considering the matter,
decided adversely. Nothing as to fact was alleged
or known. Not a word as to his conduct in life
was said against him. But he had often been seen
in company with young men who did not bear a solid
reputation, and where doubt existed, it was not considered
safe to employ him. So that good opportunity was
lost-lost through his own fault.
Poor Jacob felt gloomy and disappointed
for a time; talked of “fate,” “bad
luck,” and all that kind of nonsense, when the
cause of his ill-success was to be attributed solely
to an unwise disregard of appearances.
“We shall have to remove,”
he said to his mother in a troubled way, after this
disappointment. “If I had secured the situation
at A. & L.’s all would have been well with us.
But now nothing remains but to seek a humbler place
to remain here will only involve us in debt; and that,
above all things, we must avoid. I am sorry for
Jane and Alice; but it can’t be helped.”
His mother tried to answer cheerfully
and hopefully: but her words did not dispel a
single shadow from his mind. A few days after
this, a gentleman said to Jacob Peters,-
“I’ll give you a hint
of something that is coming in the way of good fortune.
A gentleman, whose name I do not feel at liberty to
mention, contemplates going into your business.
He has plenty of capital, and wishes to unite himself
with a young, active, and experienced man. Two
or three have been thought of-you among
the rest; find I believe it has been finally settled
that Jacob Peters is to be the man. So let me
congratulate you, my young friend, on this good fortune.”
And he grasped the hand of Jacob,
and shook it warmly. From the vale of despondency,
the young man was at once elevated to the mountain-top
of hope, and felt, for a time, bewildered in prospect
of the good fortune awaited him.
Almost in that very hour the capitalist,
to whom his friend referred, was in conversation with
Mr. A., of the firm of A. & L.
“I have about concluded to associate
with myself in business young Jacob Peters,”
said the former; “but before coming to a final
conclusion, I thought it best to ask your opinion in
the matter. You know the young man?”
“Yes,” replied Mr. A.,
“I have known him in a business way for several
years. We have considerable dealing with the house
in which he is employed.”
“What do you think of him?”
“He is a young man of decided business qualities.”
“So it appear’s to me. And you think
favorably of him?”
“As to the business qualification
I do,” replied Mr. A., placing an emphasis on
the word business.
“Then you do not think favorably of him in some
Mr. A. was silent.
“I hope,” said the other,
“that you will speak out plainly. This is
a matter, to me, of the first importance. If you
know of any reason why I should not associate this
young man with me in business I trust you will speak
Mr. A. remained silent for some moments, and then
“I feel considerably embarrassed
in regard to this matter. I would on no account
give a wrong impression in regard to the young man.
He may be all right; is all right, perhaps; but-”
“But what, sir?”
“I have seen him in company
with young men whose characters are not fair.
And I have seen him entering into and coming out of
places where it is not always safe to go.”
“Enough, sir, enough!”
said the gentleman, emphatically, “The matter
is settled. It may be all right with him, as you
say. I hope it is. But he can never be a
partner of mine. And now, passing from him, I
wish to ask about another young man, who has been in
my mind second to Peters. He is in your employment.”
“Ralph Gilpin, you mean.”
“In every way unexceptionable.
I can speak of him with the utmost confidence.
He is right in all respects-right as to
the business quality, right as to character, and right
as to associations. You could not have a better
“The matter is settled, then,”
replied the gentleman. “I will take Ralph
Gilpin if neither you nor he objects.”
“There will be no objection
on either side, I can answer for that,” said
Mr. A., and the interview closed.
From the mountain-top of hope, away
down into the dark vale of despondency, passed Jacob
Peters, when it was told him that Ralph Gilpin was
to be a partner in the new firm which he had expected
“And so nothing is left to us,”
he said to himself, in bitterness of spirit, “but
go down, while others, no better than we are, move
steadily upwards. Why should Ralph Gilpin be preferred
before me? He has no higher ability nor stricter
integrity. He cannot be more faithful, more earnest,
or more active than I would have been in the new position.
But I am set aside and he is taken. It is a bitter,
Three years have passed, and Ralph
Gilpin is on the road to fortune, while Jacob Peters
remains a clerk. And why? The one was careful
of his good name; the other was not.
My young reader, take the lesson to
heart. Guard well your good name; and as name
signifies quality, by all means guard your spirit,
so that no evil thing enter there; and your good name
shall be only the expression of your good quality.