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What A Shovel Did
by [?]

As my friend stood by the window, watching the “soft falling snow,” I saw him smile,–a thoughtful yet a very happy smile, and, anxious to know what brought it, I asked,–

“What do you see out there?”

“Myself,” was the answer that made me stare in surprise, as I joined him and looked curiously into the street.

All I saw was a man shovelling snow; and, thoroughly puzzled, I turned to Richard, demanding an explanation. He laughed, and answered readily,–

“While we wait for Kate and the children, I’ll tell you a little adventure of mine. It may be useful to you some day.

“Fifteen years ago, on a Sunday morning like this, I stood at the window of a fireless, shabby little room, without one cent in my pocket, and no prospect of getting one.

“I had gone supperless to bed, and spent the long night asking, ‘What shall I do?’ and, receiving no reply but that which is so hard for eager youth to accept, ‘Wait and trust.’

“I was alone in the world, with no fortune but my own talent, and even that I was beginning to doubt, because it brought no money. For a year I had worked and hoped, with a brave spirit; had written my life into poems and tales; tried a play; turned critic and reviewed books; offered my pen and time to any one who would employ them, and now was ready for the hardest literary work, and the poorest pay, for starvation stared me in the face.

“All my ventures failed, and my paper boats freighted with so many high hopes, went down one after another, leaving me to despair. The last wreck lay on my table then,–a novel, worn with much journeying to and fro, on which I had staked my last chance, and lost it.

“As I stood there at my window, cold and hungry, solitary and despairing, I said to myself, in a desperate mood,–

“‘It is all a mistake; I have no talent, and there is no room in the world for me, so the quicker I get out of it the better.’

“Just then a little chap came from a gate opposite, with a shovel on his shoulder, and trudged away, whistling shrilly, to look for a job. I watched him out of sight, thinking bitterly,–

“‘Now look at the injustice of it! Here am I, a young man full of brains, starving because no one will give me a chance; and there is that ignorant little fellow making a living with an old shovel!'”

A voice seemed to answer me, saying,–

“‘Why don’t you do the same? If brains don’t pay, try muscles, and thank God that you have health.’

“Of course it was only my own pluck and common sense; but I declare to you I was as much struck by the new idea as if a strange voice had actually spoken; and I answered, heartily,–

“‘As I live I will try it! and not give up while there is any honest work for these hands to do.’

“With sudden energy I put on my shabbiest clothes,–and they were very shabby, of course, added an old cap and rough comforter, as disguise, and stole down to the shed where I had seen a shovel. It was early, and the house was very quiet, for the other lodgers were hard workers all the week, and took their rest Sunday morning.

“Unseen by the sleepy girl making her fires, I got the shovel and stole away by the back gate, feeling like a boy out on a frolic. It was bitter cold, and a heavy snow-storm had raged all night. The streets were full of drifts, and the city looked as if dead, for no one was stirring yet but milkmen, and other poor fellows like me, seeking for an early job.

“I made my way to the West End, and was trying to decide at which of the tall houses to apply first, when the door of one opened, and a pretty housemaid appeared, broom in hand.