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BELIEVE, boys,” said Lame Felix, one evening, “that there comes an opportunity
in every life for doing something good or great. Sometimes the opportunity is seized-more often it slips by, and is lost for ever.
Some men make their own opportunity, others sit quietly waiting for theirs, and cannot use it when it comes; others, again, can see it, but turn from it with disdain, because the deed they can perform appears too insignificant; but, generally speaking, most men complain that they never have an opportunity for doing anything good or great. I say the opportunity comes to
I every life if men will but open their eyes and see it, stretch out their hands and seize it; and everybody ought to do this, for no life should end in self, but, on the contrary, branch out for others.
“It is a law in nature that nothing lives for itself;
WHO BOBTAIL WAS.
the flower sucks moisture and support from the black earth, the rain, and the air, but returns it again in beautiful colour and fragrance for man's use and delight. This same law should regulate human life; all men receive sustenance and support from the Lord of all, and should let it reascend in expressions of love and gratitude ; and the highest expression of gratitude consists in doing good to others. The proverb says, 'All sparks fly upward, and all good deeds take the same path.'
“I believe no one is so humble or insignificant- be it man or woman, boy or girl—but that the tongue may say a kind word, the eye beam with friendly light, and the hand perform a kindly deed, and, apart from all that, may once in a lifetime do something memorable, even as old Bobtail did. What! I never told you about old Bobtail? Well, listen, and I'll tell
you who he was, what he did, and how he died. “Bobtail lived here, in Braintree, long before either of you boys were born. No one knew who he was, yet he was as well known as the town-pump which stands at the corner of High Street and Bank Street. He appeared to be a regular institution of the town, and was recognised as such. No one seemed to know where he came from, or how long he had resided in Braintree. Many and many a time did I inquire who Bobtail was, and the only answer I ever received was, Why, lawks-a-daisy! Master Felix, not know who Bobtail is! Why, Bobtail, to be sure !' And that
THE COAT MAKES THE MAN.
was all the information I could ever gain. difficult to tell his exact age, for he never appeared to have been young, and he never seemed to get old: life with him remained stationary.
“ Bobtail was not his real name, but a nicknam he had acquired from his peculiar manner of walking, and the long coats he wore. He had a kind of springy motion in his gait,' which made the lappets of his coat go bob, bob, bob-hence the name, Bobtail. He was never known to have a coat which fitted him. Any cast-off garment which fell to his share in the way of charity, he appropriated for his own private use, until want of money compelled him to part with it to some second-hand dealer, or at the rag-shop. Sometimes he might be seen about the streets in a great-coat with an immense high collar, such as you may still occasionally see in villages and country churches-coats which appear to have been in a family for generations, and descended from father to son as a family heir-loom. At other times, he was seen shining resplendent among his companions in all the finery of a swallow-tail dresscoat; but no matter what garment it was, how old or how new-bob, bob, bob, went the tail.
“ Bobtail's life was not a desirable one to imitate or lead; he was an idle, lazy fellow, too good-natured to do anybody a wilful injury or himself any service; he had committed one or two petty thefts, and spent a few months in gaol as the consequence; but after
his second imprisonment, he was heard to say that it should be the last time he would ever see the inside of a prison. He loved his ease, and the sunshine, and the free air too much, and for the future would keep his hands from picking and stealing. He had found out by experience the truthfulness of what our old Bible asserts, 'That the way of transgressors is hard. My only surprise now is, that he was ever outside a prison wall—for, having no home, he passed his nights wherever he found a convenient place or a sheltered nook, sometimes under a hedge or in a ditch, sometimes in a shed ; or, when flush with money, indulging in the luxury of a fourpenny bed. This, however, was not very frequently the case.
“To be without a home now is a crime, and all persons found sleeping in the open air are sent to prison to enjoy a month of hard labour. Whether magistrates are more harsh now than they were when Bobtail roamed the country, I cannot say; but this I know, if he were still in existence, most of his days would be spent in the county gaol. We all ought to treat poverty with mildness, for poverty in itself is a punishment which requires no adding to. Bobtail was poor, lazy, and good-natured, and although many shook their heads in reprobation of his good-for-nothing life, the head-shaking was always accompanied by a smile.
“Bobtail was an impudent beggar. Whenever his stomach told him it was near dinner-time or tea-time,
PATRONISED BY BOYS.
he would march into a baker's-shop, and ask for a piece of stale bread, and when that was obtained would find his way to Porter's, the cheesemonger, and beg for a piece of cheese or a dab of butter. It was seldom he solicited in vain, for most of Porter's young men were fond of indulging in practical jokes at his expense, which they paid for by giving him old clothes, boots, and dry pieces of cheese, or a paper of butter scrapings.
“Bobtail was patronised by most of the Braintree boys, for he was one of the best hands at manufacturing fishing-tackle, making flies, or procuring live bait ; he knew, too, which were the most likely places to cast the fly, the particular part of the stream where the largest-sized fish were to be caught, and was always willing to spend the day in an angling excursion, provided you gave him a liberal share of the contents of your basket. No one was so successful in bird nesting as Bobtail. He knew the likeliest places for miles round where the nightingale, the turtle-dove, the woodpecker, or the owl were to be found. Many and many a day have I spent with Bobtail among the green fields, or on the banks of some pleasant stream.
“ Poor old Bobtail ! As I recall him to mind I cannot help pitying him. His was a useless life. He seemed an encumberer of the ground, a tree that bore no fruit, a fruitless vine—one who let the time pass by and never turned it to good account. Life is a real thing, and not to be spent in idleness, not to be