[Morality] “The Boy Who Loved Truth,” by Julia A. Fletcher (from Youth’s Companion, June 26, 1846, pp. 30-31)
“Catharine, you may tell me who is my best scholar while I am away,” said a teacher, as she left the room with a visiter, to a little girl who had just finished her lessons.
The little monitor took her place, the other pupils went on as usual with their studies, and in a few minutes the teacher returned.
“Well, Catharine,” said she, “what report have you to make? A good one, I know, by the happy faces around me.”
“All the scholars have been good,” said Catharine, “but Edwin Loring has been the best.”
Miss Stanly smiled with pleasure, for Edwin was a gentle and obedient child, and of course she loved him very much. She was surprised, however, to observe that Edwin did not look so happy as usual, and that her words of approbation were received without any apparent joy. She wondered much at this, but thought it better not to notice it then, being convinced by her knowledge of Edwin’s character, that he would confide the cause to her, if it was right for him to do so.
Poor Edwin! He did indeed feel sad, and hard was the trial to him; for he loved his teacher, and had striven hard for her approbation; but he felt now that he had not deserved it. During her absence he had been tempted to do wrong, by making signs to a schoolmate across the room. This was not observed by the little girl who reported him as the best.
The business of the school went quietly on; the lessons, one by one, were recited; but Edwin still sat sadly thinking what course to pursue. He was a very sensitive child, feeling deeply the lightest tone either of praise or blame; but he loved truth more than anything else, and he felt that he was acting a falsehood as long as he allowed his teacher to be deceived. He resolved at any rate to confess his fault, even though he might lose the appro-
bation he so highly prized, and receive the censure he so much dreaded.
This he was about to do, when another thought presented itself to him. “Might not some blame by Catharine’s portion?” said he to himself; “will not she be censured for carelessness, in reporting me as the best, when I really was not?” He hesitated; it seemed ungrateful to subject her even to the chance of blame.
I will leave my young readers to decide what Edwin ought to have done in such a case, and to think what they would have done, while I tell them how things happened, to decide for him. The boy, to whom Edwin had made signs, was very much displeased when he heard him praised for good conduct—not because he loved truth, but because he was an envious boy, and could not bear to hear any one praised but himself. He disliked Edwin, because his behaviour was so much better than his own, and because his teacher, of course, loved him better. He was not a generous boy, or he would not have felt and acted thus. He raised his hand, and when Miss Stanly gave him permission to speak, he said, “Edwin Loring was not the best in his conduct while you were absent.”
In a moment Miss Stanly understood the whole matter. All Edwin’s sadness and hesitation was now explained, and she knew what his feelings had been. “You may sit down,” said she to the informer, who sank sullenly back into his seat. Then turning to Edwin, she said, “Edwin, you may yourself explain this. Was your conduct while I was absent the best?”
“No, ma’am, it was not,” replied Edwin.
“What did you do that was wrong?”
“I made signs to Arthur to lend me a slate pencil.”
“Who do you think behaved better than you?” asked Miss Stanly.
This was a hard question. Edwin had expected to give up the approbation himself, but to be thus called to decide upon whom it should be bestowed, was entirely an unexpected trial. His teacher knew this, but she wished to give his generous and truth-loving spirit an occasion to act in opposition to the temptation of the moment, and she felt quite sure it would gain the victory. She was right. Edwin paused a moment, and then in a firm, manly voice replied, “Arthur Jones.”
“And why,” continued Miss Stanly, “do you think so?”
“Because,” replied Edwin, “when I tempted him by making signs, he did not reply to them.”
Miss Stanly did not think as Edwin did, that Arthur had been the best boy, but she was glad that he was willing to think and to say so, and she loved more than ever before, the boy who loved truth.—Gospel Teacher.