Strive and Succeed - Horatio Alger - ebook

Strive and Succeedor The Progress of Walter ConradByHoratio Alger

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Strive and Succeed

or The Progress of Walter Conrad


Horatio Alger

Table of Contents







































“Strive and Succeed” is reprinted from the pages of Young Israel, a New York juvenile magazine, to which it was contributed as a serial. It is complete in itself, and can be read independently; but those who have read its predecessor, “Strong and Steady,” may be interested to learn that it traces the subsequent career of Walter Conrad, showing how he continued to paddle his own canoe, and chronicles the adventures of Joshua Drummond after his flight from home.

As Walter’s success as a teacher at the West may seem to some improbable, in view of his youth, I am led to say that I know of more than one case equally remarkable, in particular that of a gentleman since prominent as a politician. The moral of the book is contained in the title. As a rule of action, I recommend it confidently to all my young readers.

New York, Oct. 1, 1872.


A long train was running at moderate speed over a Wisconsin railroad. Among the passengers was a stout, gentlemanly-looking boy, who looked much more than sixteen, although he had not yet reached that age. On the seat beside him was a large carpetbag, which contained all the clothing he carried with him. As the conductor passed through the car, the boy asked:

“Are we near Benton?”

“It is the next station.”

“Is that the place to take the stage for Portville?”


“Can you tell me how far I shall have to ride in the stage?”

“A matter of ten miles or thereabouts.”

“Thank you.”

The conductor passed on, and the boy began to shake the dust from his coat, and, opening his carpetbag, deposited therein a copy of Harper’s Magazine which he had been reading. I may as well introduce him at once to the reader as Walter Conrad, whose previous adventures have been related in “Strong and Steady.” For the benefit of such of my present readers as have not read this volume, I will sketch his history in brief.

Walter Conrad, then, not quite a year since, had received, when at boarding school, the unexpected intelligence of his father’s serious illness. On reaching home, he found his parent dead. Subsequently he learned that his father had bought shares to the extent of a hundred thousand dollars in the Great Metropolitan Mining Company, and through the failure of this company had probably lost everything. This intelligence had doubtless hastened his death. Walter was, of course, obliged to leave school, and accepted temporarily an invitation from Mr. Jacob Drummond, of Stapleton, a remote kinsman, to visit him. In extending the invitation Mr. Drummond was under the illusion that Walter was the heir to a large property. On learning the truth, his manner was changed completely, and Walter, finding himself no longer welcome as a guest, proposed to enter Mr. Drummond’s store as a clerk. Being a strong and capable boy, he was readily received on board wages. The board, however, proved to be very poor, and his position was made more disagreeable by Joshua Drummond, three years older than himself, who, finding he could get nothing out of him, took a dislike to him. Walter finally left Mr. Drummond’s employ, and, led by his love of adventure, accepted an offer to travel as a book agent in Ohio. Here he was successful, though he met with one serious adventure, involving him in some danger, but was finally led to abandon the business at the request of Clement Shaw, his father’s executor, for the following reason:

The head of the Great Metropolitan Mining Company, through whom his father had been led to invest his entire fortune in it, was a man named James Wall, a specious and plausible man, through whose mismanagement it was believed it had failed. He was strongly suspected of conspiring to make a fortune out of it at the expense of the other stockholders. He had written to Mr. Shaw, offering the sum of two thousand dollars for the thousand shares now held by Walter, an offer which the executor did not feel inclined to accept until he knew that it was made in good faith. He, therefore, wrote to Walter to change his name and go on to Portville, the home of Mr. Wall, and there use all his shrewdness to discover what he could of the position of the mining company, and Mr. Wall’s designs in relation thereto. It may be added that after selling the balance of the estate, Walter was found entitled to five hundred dollars. He had, besides, cleared eighty-seven dollars net profit on his sales as book agent.

Such is Walter’s story, though, for the present, we shall have to call our hero Gilbert Howard—an assumed name, which he had adopted at the executor’s suggestion, lest his real name might excite the suspicions of Mr. Wall and so defeat the purpose of his journey.

Walter had scarcely made his preparations to leave the cars, when the whistle sounded, and the train, gradually slackening its speed, came to a stop.

“Benton!” called the conductor, rapidly, half opening the door.

“I am near my journey’s end,” thought Walter.

Several passengers descended from the train and gathered on the platform. Among them, of course, was our hero.

A shabby-looking stage stood just beside the station house. Knowing that it was a ten miles’ journey, and important to get a comfortable seat, Walter passed through the building, and took a seat inside. Several other passengers followed leisurely until the carriage was nearly full. While Walter was wondering how soon they would start, a gentleman, accompanied by a boy of about Walter’s age, approached the driver, who was about to take his seat.

“Didn’t you see anything of my carriage, Abner?”

“No, General Wall,” said Abner, respectfully. “I didn’t see it anywhere on the road.”

“That is very strange,” muttered Mr. Wall, discontentedly. “I told Henry to drive over for me. Are you sure you might not have passed without seeing it?”

“I’d have seed it if it had been on the road,” said Abner, with more emphasis than strict adherence to grammatical rules.

“I suppose we must ride with you, then,” said Mr. Wall. “Can you give us seats inside?”

The driver came to the door, and, opening it, looked in.

“There’s one seat,” he said. “Your son can ride outside with me.”

John Wall evidently did not fancy this arrangement. The fact was that it was beginning to sprinkle, and, being nicely dressed, he did not want to get wet.

“I want to ride inside,” he said.

“I’d like to accommodate you,” said the driver, “but there’s only room for one.”

“I don’t see why I haven’t as good right to a seat inside as anybody else,” said John, in a grumbling tone.

John Wall was rather a stout, freckle-faced boy, dressed with some pretension to style, and sporting a pair of kid gloves. He secretly considered himself to be unusually good-looking, and on the strength of his father’s wealth gave himself airs of superiority to which he was not entitled. His manners were decidedly arrogant and overbearing, and he was far from being a favorite in Portville, although a great many things, which would not have been excused in another less favored by fortune, were forgiven him on account of his father’s wealth.

“I’d like to stretch the inside of the stage if I could,” said Abner, good-naturedly, “but that ain’t easy.”

“You may sit in my lap, John,” said his father.

“I’d rather not,” said John, sullenly.

“Then I think you will have to make up your mind to sit with Abner.”

“I ain’t going to spoil my clothes,” growled the discontented boy.

“Here is an umbrella for you,” said his father.

Meanwhile John had been peering into the coach and espied Walter on the back seat. Accustomed to regard his own convenience as a matter of more importance than that of anybody else, he was led to make a very selfish proposal.

“There’s a boy inside,” he said. “Perhaps he’ll get outside and give me his seat.”

This proposal struck Walter as refreshingly cool, but having a sense of what was due to himself, and always having been in the habit of standing up for his rights, he did not propose to gratify John.

“Thank you,” said he, dryly; “I’d rather keep my seat.”

“But I don’t want to get wet.”

“Nor I,” said Walter.

“I don’t see why I haven’t as much right to ride inside as he,” grumbled John, turning to the driver.

“So you would, and better, too, if you’d got in first,” said Abner, rather disgusted at John’s selfishness. “But I must be starting. So if you’re going along with me, you’d better climb up.”

“I’ll give you twenty-five cents if you’ll give me your seat,” said John, making a last appeal to Walter.

“Thank you,” said Walter, coldly; “I’m not in want of money.”

“Get up without any more fuss, John,” said his father, impatiently.

Very discontentedly John climbed up to the box and took his seat beside the driver. He felt very angry with our hero for declining to sacrifice his own convenience to him. It appeared to him that, as the son of General Wall, the richest man in Portville, he had a right to the best of everything.

“Do you know who that boy is, that wouldn’t give me his seat?” he asked of Abner.

“Never saw him before,” said the driver.

“Is he going to Portville?”

“Yes, so he told me.”

“Do you know where he is going to stop?”

“No, he didn’t tell me.”

“Do you think it’s going to rain much?”

“I reckon it will be a smart sprinkle. You’d better take off them kid gloves of your’n if you don’t want them spoiled.”

“I don’t see why that boy wouldn’t give me his seat. He hasn’t got on as good clothes as I have,” grumbled John.

“Well, if your clothes are spoiled your father’s got money enough to buy you some new ones,” said Abner.

“That’s true,” said John, with an air of importance. “My father’s very rich.”

“I expect you’ll be rich, too, some day,” said Abner.

“I expect I shall,” said John, complacently. “I’m going to be a lawyer.”

“All right,” said the driver, jocosely; “I’ll give you all my law business.”

“Oh, I shan’t settle down here,” said John, loftily. “I’m going to Detroit or Chicago. I want to be in a big place.”

“I reckon you’ll be too smart for Portville,” said Abner, with sly sarcasm.

“I guess I can do as well as any of the city lawyers,” said John. “I am reading Cæsar already.”

“Who’s he?”

“A Latin author.”

“You don’t say! You must know a mighty lot.”

“Oh, it ain’t hard when you’re used to it,” said John, condescendingly.

The rain subsided, and John had the satisfaction of saving his clothes from injury, so that he ended the journey in a more amiable frame of mind than could have been anticipated.


Mr. Wall, or General Wall, as he was commonly designated in Portville, as a kind of tribute to his wealth, for he had no other right to the title, took a seat opposite Walter. Our hero examined him with some attention. This, then, was the man who had ruined his father by his plausible misrepresentations—who even now, perhaps, was conspiring to defraud him, and probably others. Under ordinary circumstances he would have been favorably impressed by his appearance. He had a popular manner, and was quite a good-looking man, much more agreeable than his son, who, it was safe to predict, would never win popularity unless his manners were greatly changed for the better.

“Well, general,” said one of the passengers, “have you been on a journey?”

“Only to the county town. I had some business at the probate office.”

“Been buyin’ any real estate?”

“I have just purchased Mr. Newton’s place. I had a mortgage on it, and we agreed to make a bargain.”

“I wonder whether he bought it with my father’s money,” thought Walter, rather bitterly, for he felt that the man opposite was responsible not alone for his loss of fortune, but for his father’s sudden death.

“It’s a nice place,” said the other.

“Yes, a pretty good place. I didn’t need it, but Mr. Newton wanted to sell, and I accommodated him.”

“How’s that mining company coming out?” was the next question. Walter listened eagerly for the answer.

“Why,” said Mr. Wall, cautiously, “that isn’t easy to say just yet. We may realize five per cent. I can’t tell yet.”

Five per cent.! In the letter containing the offer General Wall had only hinted at two per cent., and based his offer upon this. Supposing only five per cent. were saved out of the wreck, that on Walter’s thousand shares would amount to five thousand dollars, instead of two—a very material increase.

“I am already paid for my journey by this intelligence,” thought Walter. “I shouldn’t wonder if I got considerably more out of it in the end.”

“What was the cause of the break-up?” asked the other passenger, who seemed to be propounding questions in Walter’s interest.

“Why,” said General Wall, slowly, “it cost a good deal more to work the mine than we expected, and the first indications promised much better than the mine afterward realized.”

“Have they stopped working it?”

“Well, yes, for the present. But there’s a prospect of selling it out to a new company with larger means. Of course, we shan’t realize much. I shall be a heavy loser myself.”

“I don’t believe that,” thought Walter.

“You ain’t often bit, I reckon, general,” said his questioner.

“Well, I lay claim to a fair share of judgment,” said General Wall, “but you know we are all liable to be deceived. I’ve lost nigh on to thirty thousand dollars, I reckon, by this affair. However, I expect to keep my head above water,” he added, complacently. “I mean to come out of it as well as I can.”

“’Tain’t every man that can lose thirty thousand dollars and think no more of it,” said the other, who appeared to act as a sort of toady to the great man, so much influence does wealth exert even over those who don’t expect to gain anything by their subservience to it.

“Why, no, I suppose not,” said Wall, in the same complacent tone. “I shall be left tolerably well off, even if I do lose the full value of my stock. I’ve been luckier in some of my investments.”

“Well, I haven’t lost anything, because I hadn’t got anything to lose,” said his fellow-passenger; “that is, outside of my farm. Me and the old woman manage to pick up a living off that, and that’s all we reckon on. There ain’t much money in farmin’.”

“Suppose not,” said the general. “Still, Mr. Blodgett,” he added, patronizingly, “you farmers are not subject to so many cares and anxieties as we men of business. You are more independent.”

“It’s hard work and poor pay,” answered the farmer. “It ain’t easy to get forehanded.”

“If you ever have a small surplus to invest, Mr. Blodgett, I may be able to put you in the way of making something out of it.”

“Thank you, General Wall. Maybe I’ll remind you of it some day. I might have a little over.”

“No matter how little. I can add it to some of my own funds. I should like to help you to make a little something.”

“Thank you, general. I’m much obliged to you. I’ll talk to Betsy about it, and maybe I’ll see you again.”

“Any time, Mr. Blodgett. It’s no object to me, of course, but I like to see my neighbors prosperous.”

The conversation now took another turn, in which Walter was not so much interested. He wondered whether General Wall really meant honestly by the farmer, or whether he only wanted to get his money into his possession.

He was not naturally suspicious, but knowing what he did of Wall he felt inclined to doubt whether he was quite as disinterested as he appeared.

They had a little more than half completed the ten miles which separated them from Portville, when a passenger got out. This left a vacancy, and John Wall, descending from his elevated perch, made his appearance at the door of the coach.

“Did you get much rain, John?” asked his father.

“My kid gloves are spoiled,” grumbled John.

“Why didn’t you take them off? Didn’t you have another pair in your pocket?”

“I don’t like to wear woollen gloves. They ain’t stylish.”

“I am afraid, John, you are getting a little aristocratic,” said his father.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” said John.

“Now I am perfectly willing to wear woollen gloves,” said the general, who wanted to be popular, and so avoided putting on airs, “or no gloves at all,” looking around to observe the effect of his republican speech. “Kid gloves do not make a man any better.”

Meanwhile John had taken the vacant place. But it happened to be on the front seat, and so, of course, he had to ride backward. Now John fancied that he should prefer to sit on the back seat, as it would enable him to look out of the window, besides being on the whole more agreeable. Walter, having his choice of seats, had on entering taken one of the back ones. John conceived the idea of exchanging with him, without considering that our hero might possibly prefer to retain his, to which he was fairly entitled by prior possession.

“I don’t like to ride backward,” said John.

“Why not?” asked his father.

“I can’t look out of the window.” Then, addressing Walter, “Change seats with me, will you?”

“That is pretty cool,” thought Walter.

“Thank you,” he answered, coldly, “but I prefer to remain where I am.”

“But I don’t like to ride backward,” grumbled John.

“Nor do I,” returned Walter.

John was indignant at the refusal. That he, the son of General Wall, should have to sit in an inferior seat, while a boy who did not wear kid gloves occupied a better one, was very vexatious. He frowned at Walter, but the latter was by no means annihilated by the frown. Indeed, from what he was able to judge of John Wall, he felt a degree of satisfaction in disappointing him.

“I will change seats with you, John,” said his father, “if you are so anxious to look out of the window.”

“I’ll give him my seat,” said the farmer. “I don’t mind riding backward; and, as for seein’ out, I know the road by heart.”

Without a word of thanks John took the proffered seat, and this brought him next to Walter. He eyed our hero attentively, but could not make up his mind as to his social position. Walter was well dressed in a neatly fitting suit, but the cloth was not as fine as his. John glanced at his hands, which were encased in a pair of woollen gloves. On the other hand, our hero wore a gold watch and chain—his father’s—and so he might be worth noticing.

“What’s your name?” asked John.

“You may call me Gilbert Howard.”

“Are you going to Portville?”


“Have you got any relations there?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Are you going to stay long?”

“That depends on circumstances.”

“Where are you going to stop?”

“At the hotel, I suppose. There is one, isn’t there?”

“Yes. It is called the Portville House.”

“Then I shall go there.”

John was about to continue his questions when Walter thought it was his turn.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“John Wall,” replied John. “My father is General Wall,” he added, in a tone of some importance.

“Do you live in Portville?”


“Where have you been?”

“On a journey,” answered John, stiffly, thinking to himself that Walter was very impertinent. It did not occur to him that it is a poor rule that will not work both ways.

“What is your business?” John asked, preferring to question rather than be questioned. “Are you a peddler?”

“No,” said Walter, coolly. “Are you?”

John glared at his questioner feeling deeply insulted, and did not deign a reply. That he, the son of General Wall, the richest man in Portville, should be asked if he were a peddler was something his pride could not brook. Walter ought to have been annihilated by his look, but he stood it unflinchingly, secretly amused at the effectual manner in which he had silenced his questioner.


At length the stage reached its destination. With a flourish the driver drew up in front of the Portville House, a hotel of moderate size, yet large enough to accommodate all the travelers likely to stand in need of shelter.

Walter got out, and taking his carpetbag, which was handed down from the roof, where it had been stored with other parcels, entered the inn. General Wall and his son retained their places, and the driver, after a short pause, set out to leave them at their own house.

Walter entered the barroom, which was at the same time the office, and asked if he could be accommodated with a room.

“You can have your choice of half a dozen,” said the landlord. “We ain’t crowded just at present.”

“Put me in any. I am not particular as long as it’s comfortable.”

“Will you go up now?”

“Yes, I think so. How soon will supper be ready?”

“In half an hour.”

“Very well, I’ll be down.”

Walter entered himself in the hotel register as Gilbert Howard, the name he had assumed. It was the name of a schoolmate at the Essex Classical Institute, and the first one that had occurred to him. It was not altogether agreeable to Walter to pass under an assumed name. It seemed like sailing under false colors. He had, however, a great respect for the judgment of Mr. Shaw, and the circumstances seemed to require it. Under his own name he realized that it would be impossible to learn anything of Mr. Wall’s fraudulent purposes. Now there seemed a very good chance of doing so. Indeed, he had already learned something from the conversation he had overheard in the stage.

After washing his face and hands, he descended to the public room, and in a short time supper was ready. It was not a luxurious supper, but a good, plain meal, to which his appetite enabled him to do full justice.

There were five other guests besides himself. These, however, were regular boarders. On the opposite side of the table were a man of middle age and his wife. These Walter learned were Mr. and Mrs. Carver. The former had something to do with a manufacturing establishment recently opened, and was boarding at the hotel with his wife, until he could find a suitable house. There were also a young man, employed as clerk in one of the village stores, and his sister. His name was Jones—a young man with nothing striking about him. His sister wore ringlets, and doted on the poets, of whom she did not know much. The fifth guest was a tall young man, of sickly appearance. He was narrow-chested and had inherited a consumptive tendency. His lungs being weak, he had left Vermont for the West, in the hope that the more equable climate might be favorable to his health. Unfortunately it did not produce the desired effect. He coughed at intervals during the meal, and the hard, dry cough had an alarming sound.

“You have a hard cough,” said Walter, who sat beside him at the table.

“Yes, it seems to be getting worse,” said the young man. “I came out here, thinking I might be benefited by the change of climate.”

“Then you are not a native of Wisconsin?”

“I was born and brought up in Vermont.”

“And I am from the State of New York.”

“Indeed. Have you just arrived from the East?”

“It is several months since I left home. I have been traveling in Ohio.”

“I am glad to meet one who comes from near home. Will you come up into my room after supper?”

“I shall be glad to do so. I have no friends or acquaintances here, and I might be rather dull by myself.”

“What may I call you?”

“Gilbert Howard.”

“My name is Allen Barclay.”

“Have you boarded at this hotel long?”

“Ever since I came to Portville. That is four months since. By way of further introduction, I will mention that I am a teacher, and keep the grammar school in the village.”

Walter was glad to hear this. He felt that he should take more pleasure in his companion’s society since their tastes were probably somewhat similar. Though his life for a few months had been an active one, he had by no means lost his relish for study, nor had he given up his intention of resuming his studies at some time. In case he should realize five per cent. on the mining shares, this would amount to five thousand dollars, a sum with which he would be justified in continuing his preparation for college, and a four years’ collegiate course. He estimated that his expenses as a student would not average more than five hundred dollars a year, and as the interest would amount to considerable—three hundred dollars the first year—he concluded that he could educate himself, and have considerably more than half his capital left to start in life with, when his education was complete. I mean, of course, his college education, for, strictly speaking, one’s education is never complete, and those who attain eminence in any branch are willing to confess themselves perpetual learners.

But, while these speculations were very pleasant, the five thousand dollars were not yet in his possession. To gain them he must learn more of General Wall and his schemes, and to this object he resolved to devote himself in earnest. He had no settled plan. Indeed, without considerably more knowledge of how the land lay it was impossible to decide upon any. He must be guided by circumstances, ready to avail himself of any favorable turn which affairs might take.

“This way, please,” said Allen Barclay, leading the way out of the dining-room.

His room was on the second floor, and though hotel chambers are in general—at any rate, in country towns—the reverse of pleasant or comfortable, this room looked both. There was an open fire in the grate which blazed pleasantly. Before the fire a cosy armchair was drawn up. Next to it was a table covered with books. Two or three pictures hung on the walls, and books and pictures do a great deal to give a homelike appearance to an apartment.

“You look very comfortable here, Mr. Barclay,” said Walter.

“Yes, I have made the room pleasant. The books and pictures I brought with me, and the armchair I bought in the village. I am sensitive to cold, and so of late, as the weather has become colder, I have had a fire lighted just before I come home in the afternoon.”

“Have you any scholars in Latin?” asked Walter, seeing a copy of “Cæsar’s Commentaries” on the table.

“One—John Wall, the son of General Wall, the most prominent man in Portville.”

“I have already made the young gentleman’s acquaintance,” said Walter, smiling.

“Indeed!” returned Allen Barclay, in surprise.

“I met him in the stage. I don’t think we were either of us very favorably impressed with the other.”

Here he gave a brief account of the altercation between himself and John.

“What you say does not surprise me,” said the teacher. “John is a thoroughly selfish, disagreeable boy, with a very lofty idea of himself and his position as the son of a rich man. He considers himself entitled to the best of everything. I am glad you did not give way to him.”

“I am too independent for that,” answered Walter. “I don’t allow myself to be imposed upon if I can help it, though I hope I am not often disobliging.”

“You had no call to yield to him to-day.”

“So I thought. What sort of a scholar is he?”

“John Wall? Very poor. He will never set the river on fire with his learning or talents. In fact, if he were a better scholar, I might feel different about teaching him. I have only had an academy education, and have not been beyond Cæsar myself. However, I have no trouble in keeping ahead of John.”

Here Mr. Barclay was seized with a violent attack of coughing, which seemed to distress him.

“I don’t think I shall be able to keep on teaching,” he said, when the fit was over. “The climate does not agree with me, and I shall not be willing to run the risk of wintering here. If I could only find some one to take my place as teacher, I would leave at once. It is the middle of the term, and I don’t want the school closed.”

An idea came to Walter. He was a good English scholar—had been as far in Latin as his companion—and was probably qualified to teach any scholars he was likely to have. It was desirable that he should have something to do, which would serve as a good excuse for remaining in Portville. Why should he not offer to supply Barclay’s place, since he thought it necessary to resign?


“How many scholars have you, Mr. Barclay?” inquired Walter.

“About fifty.”

“Are they mostly boys?”

“There are about thirty boys—rather more than half.”

“How do they vary in age?”

“From ten to eighteen. I have three boys, or young men I might almost call them, of eighteen, two of seventeen, and three girls of sixteen and upwards.”

“Are they hard to manage?”

“The older ones? No; the most troublesome age is from thirteen to fifteen. Those who are older generally come to school for improvement, and are inclined to obey the rules of the school.”

This was reassuring. Walter knew that, in case he should be accepted as a teacher, he could not hope to cope with those two or three years older than himself. But if he could rely on the co-operation of the older pupils, he might get along.

“Mr. Barclay,” said he, after a moment’s thought, “do you think I would be too young to undertake the school?”

“You look pretty young,” answered the teacher. “You are not yet seventeen, I suppose?”

“I am not yet sixteen.”

“That is pretty young for a teacher. But then I was not much older than that when I commenced teaching.”

“Where did you teach?”

“In my native town, in Vermont. It was a winter district school of about forty scholars.”

“How did you get along?”

“Pretty well. I got the good will of the scholars, and they saw that I wanted to help them on as fast as possible.”

“I think I know enough to pass the examination,” said Walter, “and I am in search of some business to employ my time. If you want to give up the school, and recommend me to try it, I will offer myself to the school trustees.”

“What sort of a fellow are you, Mr. Howard—excusing the term I accidentally used—but have you got grit? Do you generally succeed in what you undertake?”

“I think I do,” said Walter, smiling. “I wouldn’t give it up, unless I was obliged to.”

“I asked the question,” said the young man, “because grit weighs heavily in this world. I have noticed that successful men are generally plucky, which is about the same thing.”

“I haven’t had much chance to tell yet,” said Walter. “Until a few months since everything was done for me, my father being rich; then I was thrown upon my own resources, and so far I have been successful.”