List Of Contents | Contents of The Pedler of Dust Sticks, by Eliza Lee Follen
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With illustrations by Billings


One day I went to visit a friend, a lady, who came from Hamburg, in
Germany. I was much pleased with a portrait which was hanging up in
her room, and I was particularly struck by the ornamental drawings
with which the picture was surrounded. They consisted of whip
handles, canes, piano keys, mouth-pieces for wind instruments, all
sorts of umbrellas, and many more things, of every sort, made of
cane and whalebone. The arrangement was so ingenious, the designs so
fanciful, and the execution so good, that nothing could be prettier.
But what of course was of the most importance, was the face and head
that they were meant to ornament. "What a benevolent, what a
beautiful face!" I said. "Who is it?"

"My father," the lady replied; "and he is more beautiful than the
picture, and he is still more kind than he looks there."

"What is the meaning of all these bits of bamboo and these little
canes, so fancifully arranged around the picture?" I asked.

"These little sticks," she replied, "tell the story of my father's
success, and of the beginning of his greatness. He began his noble
and honorable life as a little Pedler of Dust Sticks."

"Pedler of Dust Sticks?"

"Yes," she said; "if you would like to hear his history, I will
relate it."

I replied that nothing could please me better; that I considered the
life of a good, great man the most beautiful of all stories.

"I will tell it to you just as it was; and you may, if you please,
repeat it for the benefit of any one."

When I had returned home I wrote the story down, just as I
remembered it, as she had given me leave to do.

The Christian name of our hero was Henry, and so we will call him.
His parents lived in Hamburg, in Germany. They were very poor. His
father was a cabinet maker, with a very small business. Henry was
the second of eight children. As soon as he was eight years old, his
father, in order to raise a few more shillings to support his
family, sent him into the streets to sell little pieces of ratan,
which the people there use to beat the dust out of their clothes.

Henry got about a cent and a half apiece for the sticks. If he sold
a great number of these little sticks, he was allowed, as a reward,
to go to an evening school, where he could learn to read. This was a
great pleasure to him; but he wanted also to learn to write. For
this, however, something extra was to be paid, and Henry was very
anxious to earn more, that he might have this advantage.

There is a fine public walk in Hamburg, where the fashionable people
go, in good weather, to see and be seen; and where the young men go
to wait upon and see the ladies. These gentlemen were fond of having
little canes in their hands, to play with, to switch their boots
with, and to show the young ladies how gracefully they could move
their arms; and sometimes to write names in the sand. So little
Henry thought of making some very pretty canes, and selling them to
these young beaux.

He soaked his canes for a long time in warm water, and bent the tops
round for a handle, and then ornamented them with his penknife, and
made them really very pretty. Then he went to the public walk, and
when he saw a young man walking alone, he went up to him, and with a
sweet and pleasant voice, he would say, "Will you buy a pretty cane,
sir? Six cents apiece."

Almost every gentleman took one of the canes.

With the money he got for his canes he was able to pay for lessons
in writing. This made him very happy, for it was the reward of his
own industry and ingenuity.

As soon as Henry was old enough, his father employed him to carry
home the work to customers. The boy had such a beautiful
countenance, was so intelligent, and had such a pleasant manner,
that many of the customers wanted to have him come and live with
them, and promised to take good care of him; but Henry always said,
"No, I prefer staying with my father, and helping him."

Every day the little fellow would take his bundle of dust sticks and
little canes in a box he had for the purpose, and walk up and down
the streets, offering them to every one who he thought would buy
them. And happy enough was he when he sold them all and brought home
the money to his poor father, who found it so hard to support a
large family.

All the evenings when Henry was not so happy as to go to school, he
worked as long as he could keep his eyes open.

He was very skilful, and made his canes so pretty, and he was such a
good boy, that he made many friends, and almost always found a good
market for his sticks.

The poor fellow was very anxious to get money. Often his father's
customers gave him a few pence. Once he came near risking his life
to obtain a small sum. He was very strong and active, and excelled
in all the common exercises of boys; such as running, jumping, &c.
One day he got up on the top of a very high baggage wagon, and
called to the boys below, and asked them how many pence they would
give him if he would jump off of it to the ground. Some one offered

"Two are too few to risk my life for," he replied.

They then promised to double the number; and he was upon the point
of jumping, when he felt a smart slap on his back.

"That's what you shall have for risking your life for a few pence,"
said his father, who, unobserved by Henry, had heard what had
passed, and climbed up the wagon just in time to save Henry from
perhaps breaking his neck, or at least some of his limbs.

Henry was very fond of skating, but he had no skates. One day, when
the weather and ice were fine, he went to see the skaters. He had
only a few pence in his pocket, and he offered them for the use of a
pair of skates for a little while; but the person who had skates to
let could get more for them, and so he refused poor Henry. There was
near by, at the time, a man whose profession was gambling; and he
said to Henry, "I will show you a way by which you can double and
triple your money, if you will come with me."

Henry followed him to a little booth, in which was a table and some
chairs; and there the man taught him a gambling game, by which, in a
few minutes, he won a dollar.

Henry was going away with his money, thinking with delight of the
pleasure he should have in skating, and also of the money that would
be left to carry home to his poor father, when the gambler said to
him, "You foolish boy, why won't you play longer, and double your
dollar? You may as well have two or three dollars as one."

Henry played again, and lost not only what he had won, but the few
pence he had when he came upon the ice.

Henry was fortunate enough that day, after this occurrence, to sell
a few pretty canes, and so had some money to carry to his father;
but still he went home with a heavy heart, for he knew that he had
done a very foolish thing.

He had learned, by this most fortunate ill luck, what gambling was;
and he made a resolution then, which he faithfully kept through his
whole after life, never to allow any poverty, any temptation
whatever, to induce him to gamble.

Henry continually improved in his manufacture of canes, and he often
succeeded in getting money enough to pay for his writing lessons.

There were Jews in the city, who sold canes as he did, and he would
often make an exchange with them; even if they insisted upon having
two or three of his for one of theirs; he would consent to the
bargain, when he could get from them a pretty cane; and then he
would carry it home, and imitate it, so that his canes were much
admired; and the little fellow gained customers and friends too
every day.

The bad boys in the city he would have nothing to do with; he
treated them civilly, but he did not play with them, nor have them
for his friends. He could not take pleasure in their society.

Henry was a great lover of nature. He spent much of his life out in
the open air, under the blue skies; and he did not fail to notice
what a grand and beautiful roof there was over his head. The clouds
by day, the stars by night, were a continued delight to him. The
warm sunshine in winter, and the cool shade of the trees in summer,
he enjoyed more than many a rich boy does the splendid furniture and
pictures in his father's house.

One beautiful summer afternoon he was going, with his canes on his
shoulder, through the public promenade on the banks of the little
bay around which was the public walk. The waves looked so blue, and
the air was so delicious, that he was resolved he would treat
himself to a row upon the sparkling waters; so he hired a little
boat, and then got some long branches from the trees on the shore,
and stuck them all around the edges of his boat, and tied them
together by their tops, so as to make an arbor in the boat, and got
in and rowed himself about, whistling all the tunes he knew for his
music, to his heart's content. He went alone, for he had no
companion that he liked; and he would have none other.

At last what should he see but his father, walking on the bank.

Henry knew that his father would be very angry with him, for he was
a severe man; but he determined to bear his punishment, let it be
what it would, patiently; for he knew, when he went, that his father
would not like it; and yet he said, in telling this story to a
friend, "I was so happy, and this pleasure was so innocent, that I
could not feel as sorry as I ought to feel."

Henry bore his punishment like a brave boy.

It was too bad for the poor fellow to have no pleasures; nothing but
work all the time. This was especially hard for him, for no one
loved amusement better than he.

He relished a piece of fun exceedingly. In the city of Hamburg there
was a place where young girls were always to be seen with flowers in
their hands to sell. He had observed that the Jews, of whom he
bought the pretty canes, were often rude to them, and he determined
to punish some of them. There was one who wore a wig, with a long

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