Things Not Worth Trying
THAT is a wise old saying, "Spend not all you have, believe not all you hear, tell not all you know, and do not all you can." There is so much work to be done that needs our hands that it is a pity to waste a grain of our strength. When the game is not worth the candle, drop it at once. It is wasting time to look for milk in a gate post, or blood in a turnip, or sense in a fool. Never ask a covetous man for money till you have boiled a flint soft. Don't sue a debtor who has not a penny to bless himself with - you will only be throwing good money after bad, which is like losing your ferret without getting a rabbit.
Never offer a mirror to a blind man: if a man is so proud that he will not see his faults, he will only quarrel with you for pointing them out to him. It is of no use to hold a lantern to a mole or to talk of heaven to a man who cares for nothing but his dirty money. There's a time for everything, and it is a silly thing to preach to drunken men; it is casting pearls before swine. Get them sober and then talk to them soberly; if you lecture them while they are drunk, you act as if you were drunk yourself.
Do not put a cat on a coachbox or men in places for which they are not fitted. There's no making apples of plums. Little minds will still be little, even if you make them deacons or elders. It's a pity to turn a monkey into a minister or a maid-servant into a mistress. Many preachers are good tailors spoiled, and capital shoemakers turned out of their proper calling. When God means a creature to fly, He gives it wings; and when He intends men to preach, he gives them abilities. It is a pity to push a man into the war if cannot fight. Better discourage a man's climbing than help him to break his neck. Silk purses are not to made out of sows' ears, and pigs will never play well on the flute, teach them as long as you like.
It is not wise to aim at impossibilities - it is a waste of powder to fire at the man in the moon. Making boards out of sawdust is a very sensible scheme compared with what some of my London friends have been aiming at, for they have been trying to get money by buying shares in companies; they might quite as soon catch the wind in a net or carry water in a sieve. Bubbles are fine fun for boys, but bubble companies are sharp-edged tools that none should play with. If my friend has money which he can afford to lose, there is still no reason why he should hand it over to a set of knaves. If I wanted to get rid of my leg, I should not get a shark to snap it off for me. Give your money to fools sooner that let rogues wheedle you out of it.
It is never worthwhile to do unnecessary thongs. Never grease a fat sow or praise a proud man. Don't make clothes for fishes or coverings for altars. Don't paint lilies or garnish the gospel. Never bind up a man's head before it is broken or comfort a conscience that makes no confession. Never hold up a candle to the sun or try to prove a thing which nobody doubts. I would advise no one to attempt a thing which cost more than it is worth. You may sweeten a dunghill with lavender water, and a bad living man may keep up a good character by an outward show of religion, but it will turn out a losing business in the long run.
If our nation were sensible, it would sweep out a good many expensive but useless people, who eat the malt which lies in the house that Jack built; they live on the national estate but do it little service. To pay a man a pounds earning a penny is a good deal wiser than' keeping bishops who meet together by the score and consult about the best way of doing nothing. If my master's old dog was as sleepy as the bishops are, he would get shot or drowned, for he wouldn't be worth the amount of the dog tax. However, their time of reckoning is nearing, as sure as Christmas is coming.
Long ago, my experience taught me not to dispute with anybody about tastes and whims; one might as well argue about what you can see in the fire. It is of no use plowing the air or trying to convince matters of no consequence. It is useless to try to end a quarrel by getting angry over it; it is much the same as pouring oil on a fire to quench it or blowing coals with the bellows to put them out. Some people like row - I don't envy their choice; I'd rather walk ten miles to get out of a dispute than a half-mile to get into one. I have often been told to be bold and take the bull by the horns; but, as I rather think that the amusement is more pleasant than profitable, I shall leave it to those who are so cracked already that an ugly poke with a horn would not damage their skulls. Solomon says, "Leave off strife before it be meddled with," which is much the same as if he had said, "Leave off before you begin."
When you see a mad dog, don't argue with him unless you are sure of your logic. Instead, get out of his way; if nobody calls you a coward, you need not call him a fool - everybody knows that. Meddling in quarrels never finds answers: let hornets' nests be alone, and don't pull down old houses over your own head. Meddlers are sure to hurt their own characters: if you scrub other people's pigs, you will soon need scrubbing yourself. It is the height of folly to interfere between a man and his wife, for they will be sure to leave off fighting each other and turn their whole strength upon you - and it would serve you right, too. If you put your spoon into other people's broth and it scalds you, who is to blame but yourself?
One thing more, don't attempt to make a strong-minded woman give way, but remember:
"If she will, she will, You may depend on it. If she won't, she won't, And there's an end to it."
The other day I cut out of a newspaper a scrap from America, which shall be my end piece:
"Dip the Mississippi dry with a teaspoon; twist your heel into the toe of your boot; send up fishing-hooks with balloons and fish for stars; get astride a gossamer and chase a comet; when a rain storm is coming down like the cataract of Niagara, remember where you left your umbrella; choke a flea with a brickbat! In short, prove everything hitherto considered impossible to be possible but never attempt to coax a woman to say she will when she has made up her mind to say she won't.