Used Up by
I am tempted to believe, that fewvery few men can start in the
worldsay at twenty, with a replete invoice of honesty, free and
easykind, generousgood-natured disposition, and keep it up, until
they greet their fortieth year. There are, doubtless, plenty of menI
hope there are, who would be entirely and perfectly
generous-hearted, if they could, with any degree of consistency;
and I know there are multitudes who wouldn't exhibit an honorable or
manly trait, of any human description, if they could. That class thrive
best, it appears to meif the accumulation of dollars and dimes be
Webster, Walker, or Scriptural interpretation of that sensein this
sublunary world. Meanness and dishonesty win what good nature and
honesty lose, hence the more thrift to the former, and the less gain,
pecuniarily considered, to the latter. The subject is very prolific,
and as my present purpose is as much to point a humorous sketch
as to adorn a moral, I needs must cut speculative
philosophistics for facts, in the case of my friend John Jenks, an
emphaticused up good fellow.
Jenks started in this world with a first-rate opinion of himself and
the rest of mankind. No man ever started with a larger capital of good
nature, human benevolence, and common honesty, than honest John. Few
men ever started with better general prospects, for a good time, and
plenty of it, than Jenks. He graduated with honor to himself and
the Institute of his native State, and with but little knowledge beyond
the college library and the social circles of his immediate friends. At
twenty-three, John Jenks went into business on his own hook.
Of course John soon formed various and many business acquaintances;
he learned that men were brothersshould love, honor, and respect one
another, from precepts set him at his father's fireside. He formed the
opinion, that this brotherhood was not to be alienated in matters of
business, for he never refused to act kindly to all; he freely loaned
his autograph and purse to his business acquaintances; but,
being backed up by a snug business capital, he seldom felt the
necessity of claiming like accommodation, or he would have gotten his
eye teeth cut cheaper and sooner.
Jenks, said a business man, stopping in at Jenks' counting room
one September morning, Perkins &Ball, I see, have stoppedgone
Have they? quickly responded Jenks.
They have, and a good many fingers will be burnt by them, replied
the informant. By the way, Barclay says you have some of their
paper on hand; is it true? continued the man.
I have some, not much, answered Jenksnot enough at all events
to create any alarm as to their willingness or ability to take it up.
But in looking over his accounts, Jenks found a considerably
larger amount of Perkins &Ball's paper on hand, than an
experienced business man might have contemplated with entire Christian
resignation. The gazette, in the course of a few days, gave publicity
to the smash of the house of Perkins, Ball &Co. There was a buzz
on 'change; those losers by the smash were bitter in their
denunciatory remarks, while those gaining by the transaction snickered
in their sleeves and kept mum. Jenks heard all, and said nothing. He
reasoned, that if the firm were smashed by imprudences, or
through dishonest motives, they were getting an elegant sufficiency
of public and private vituperation, without his aid. Though far from
his thoughts of entering into such lists, and inclined to hold on and
see how things come outJenks, for the credit of common humanity,
seldom recapitulated the amount, by discounting, &c.he was likely to
be in for, if P. &B. were really done gone. This resolve, like
some rules, worked both ways.
As honest John was drawing on his gloves to leave his commercial
institution, after the above occurrences had had some ten days'
grace; one evening, the senior partner of the house of Perkins
&Ball came in. Greetings were cordial, and in the private office of
Jenks, an hour's discourse took place between the merchants; which, in
brief transcription, may be summed up in the fact, that Jenks received
a two-third indemnification on all his liabilities for
the smashed house of P. &B., which the senior partner assured
him, arose from the fact of his, Jenks', gentlemanly forbearance in not
joining the clamor against them, in the adverse hour, nor pushing his
claims, when he had reason to believe that they were down; quite down
at the heel. Jenks hoped he should never be found on the wrong or
even doubtful side of humanity, gentlemanly courtesy, or Christian
kindness; they shook hands and parted; the senior partner of the
exploded firm requesting, and Jenks agreeing, to say every thing he
could towards sustaining the honor of the house of P. &B., and
recreating its now almost extinguished credit. Those who fought the
bankrupt merchants most got the least, and because Jenks preserved an
undisturbed serenity, when it was known that he was as deeply a loser,
they supposed, as any one, they were staggered at his philosophy, or
amused at his extreme good nature. This latter result seemed the most
popular and accepted notion of Jenks' character, and proved the
ground-work of his pecuniary destruction.
The firm of Perkins &Ball crept up again; Jenks had, on all
occasions, spoken in the most favorable terms of the firm; he not only
freely endorsed again for them, but stood their referee
generally. In the meantime, Jenks' celebrity for good nature and
open-heartedness had drawn around him a host of patrons and admirers.
Jenks' name became a circulating medium for half his business
acquaintances. If Brown was short in his cash account, five hundred or
a thousand dollars
Just run over to Jenks', he'd say to his clerk; ask him to favor
me with a check until the middle of the week. It was done.
Termsthirty days with good endorsed paper, was sufficient for
the adventurous Smith to buy and depend on Jenks' autograph
to secure the goods. When in funds, Bingle went where he chose;
when a little short, Jenks had his patronage. Jenks kept but few
memorandums of acts of kindness he daily committed; hence when the evil
effects of them began to revolve upon himif not mortified or ashamed
of his bargains, he at least was astounded at the results. Brown,
whose due bills or memorandums Jenks held, to the amount of seven
thousand dollars, accommodation loans, took an apoplectic, one
warm summer's day, after taking a luxurious dinner. Jenks had hardly
learned that Brown's affairs were pronounced in a state of deferred
bankruptcy, when the first rumor reached him that Smith had bolted, after a heavy transaction in woolensJenks his principal
endorserSmith not leaving assets or assigns to the amount of one red
By Jove! poor Jenks muttered, as he tremulously seated himself in
his back counting roomthat's shabby in Smithvery shabby.
The next morning's Gazette informed the community that Bingle had
failedliabilities over $200,000prospects barely giving hopes of ten
per cent, all around; and even this hope, upon Jenks' investigation,
proved a forlorn one; by a modus operandi peculiar to the
heartless, self-devoted, they got all, Jenks and the few
of his ilk, got nothing!
For the first time in his life, Jenks became pecuniarily moody. For
the first time, in the course of his mercantile career, of some six
years, the force of reflection convinced him, that he had not acted his
part judiciously, however well done it might be, in point of honor
The next day Jenks devoted to a scrutiny of his accounts in general
with the business world. He found things a great deal mixed up; his
balance-sheet exhibited large surplusages accumulated on the score of
his leniency and good nature; by the credit of those with whom he held
business relations. A council of war, or expediency, rather,solus, convinced Jenks, he had either mistaken his business qualifications,
or formed a very vague idea of the soulmanners and customs of the
business world; and he broke up his council, a sadder if not a wiser
By Jove, this is discouraging; I'll have to do a very disagreeable
thing, very disagreeable thing: make an assignment!
Who'd thought John Jenks would ever come to that? that individual
muttered to himself, as he proceeded to his hotel. And ere he reached
his plate, at the tea-table, a servant whispered that a gentleman with
a message was out in the office of the hotel, anxious to see Mr.
Mr. JenksJohn Jenks, I believe, sir? began the person, as poor
Jenks, now on the tapis for more ill news, approached the person
Precisely, that's my name, sir, Jenks responded.
Then, continued the stranger, I've disagreeable business with
you, Mr. Jenks; I hold your arrest!
Good God! exclaimed Jenks; my arrest? What for?
There's the writ, sir; you can read it.
A writ? Why, God bless you, man, I don't owe a dollar
in the world, but what I can liquidate in ten minutes!
Oh, it's not debt, sir; you may see by the writ it's felony!
If the man had drawn and cocked a revolver at Jenks, the effect upon
his nervous system could not have been more startling or powerful. But
he recovered his self-possession, and learned with dismay, that he was
arrestedyes, arrested as an accessory to a grand scheme of
fraud and general villany, on the part of Smith, a conclusion arrived
at, by those most interested, upon discovery that Jenks had pronounced
Smith good, and endorsed for him in sums total, enormously, far
beyond Jenks' actual ability to make good!
It was in vain Jenks declared, and no man before ever dreamed of
doubting his word, his entire ability to meet all liabilities of his
own and others, for whom he kindly become responsible; for when the
bulk of Smith's paper with Jenks' endorsement was thrust at
him, he gave in; saw clearly that he was the victim of a heartless
But his calmness, in the midst of his affliction, triumphed, and he
rested comparatively easy in jail that night, awaiting the bright
future of to-morrow, when his established character, and troops of
friends should set all right. But, poor Jenks, he reckoned indeed
without his host; to-morrow came, but not a friend in need; they saw,
in their far-reaching wisdom, a sinking ship, and like sagacious rats,
they deserted it!
I always thought Jenks a very good-natured, or a very deep
man, said one.
I knew he was too generous to last long! said another.
I told him he was green to endorse as freely as he did,
echoed a third.
Good fellow, chimed a fourthbut devilish imprudent.
He knows what he's at! cunningly retorted a fifth, and so the good
but misguided Jenks was disposed of by his troops of friends!
But Perkins &Ballthey had got up again, were flourishing; they,
Jenks felt satisfied, would not show the white feather, and the
thought came to him, in his prison, as merrily as the reverse of
that fond hope made him sad and sorrowful, when at the close of
day, his attorney informed him, that Perkins &Ball regretted his
perplexing situation, but proffered him no aid or comfort. They said,
sad experience had shown them, that there were no bowels of
compassion in the world for the fallen; men must trust to fortune,
God, and their own exertions, to defeat ill luck and rise from
difficulties; they had done so; Mr. Jenks must not despair, but
surmount his misfortunes with a stout heart and a clear conscience, and
profit, as they had, by reverses!
Profit! said Jenks, in a bitter tone, profit by reverses
as they have!
Why, Powers, he continued to his counsel, do you know that if I
had been a tithe part as base and conscienceless as they are now, Perkins &Ball would be beggars, if not inmates of this prison! Yes,
sir, my casting vote, of all the rest, would have done it. But no
matter; I had hoped to find, in a community where I had been useful,
generous and just, friends enough for all practical purposes, without
carrying my business difficulties to the fireside of my parents and
other relations. But that I must do now; if, if they fail me,
Two days after that conference of the lawyer and the merchant,
honest John learned, with sorrow, that his father was dead; estate
involved, and his friends at home in no favorable mood in reference to
what they heard of John Jenks and his bad management in the city.
John Jenksheard no morehe caved! as he agreed to.
We pass over Jenks' Smithsonian difficulty, which a prudent
lawyer and discerning jury brought out all right.
We come to 1850some fifteen or eighteen years after John Jenks
caved. The John Jenks of 183-had been ruined by his good nature, set
adrift moneyless, in a manner, with even a spotted reputation to begin
with; he profited by his reverses, he was now a man of familyfifty,
fat, and wealthy, and altogether the meanest and most selfish man you
Jenks freely admits his originality is entirelyused up!
The reader may affix the moral of my sketchat leisure.