How to Avoid a Quarrel
by Timothy Shay Arthur
"Here! lend me your knife, Bill; I've left mine in the house," said Edgar Harris to his younger brother. He spoke in a rude voice, and his manner was imperative.
"No, I won't! Go and get your own knife," replied William, in a tone quite as ungracious as that in which the request, or rather command, had been made.
"I don't wish to go into the house. Give me your knife, I say. I only want it for a minute."
"I never lend my knife, nor give it, either," returned William. "Get your own."
"You are the most disobliging fellow I ever saw," retorted Edgar, angrily, rising up and going into the house to get his own knife. "Don't ever ask me for a favor — for I'll never grant it."
This very unbrotherly conversation took place just beneath the window near which Mr Harris, the father of the lads, was seated. He overheard it all, and was grieved, as may be supposed, that his sons should treat each other so unkindly. But he said nothing to them then, nor did he let them know that he heard the language that had passed between them.
In a little while Edgar returned, and as he sat down in the place where he had been seated before, he said,
"No thanks to you for your old knife! Keep it to yourself. I wouldn't use it now, if you were to give it to me."
"I'm glad you are so independent," retorted William. "I hope you will always be so."
And the boys fretted each other for some time.
On the next day, Edgar was building a house with sticks, and William was rolling a hoop. By accident the hoop was turned from its right course, and broke down a part of Edgar's house. William was just going to say how sorry he was for the accident, and to offer to repair the damage that was done, when his brother, with his face red with passion, cried out —
"Just see what you have done! If you don't clear out with your hoop, I'll call father. You did it on purpose!"
"Do go and call him! I'll go with you," said William, in a sneering, tantalizing tone. "Come, come along now."
For a little while, the boys stood and growled at each other like two mad dogs, and then Edgar commenced repairing his house, and William went to rolling his hoop again. The latter was strongly tempted to repeat, in earnest, what he had done at first by accident, by way of retaliation upon his brother for his spiteful manner toward him; but, being naturally of a good disposition, and forgiving in his temper, he soon forgot his bad feelings, and enjoyed his play as much as he had done before.
This little circumstance Mr. Harris had also observed.
A day or two afterward, Edgar came to his father with a complaint against his brother.
"I never saw such a boy," he said. "He won't do the least thing to oblige me. If I ask him to lend me his knife, or ball, or anything he has — he snaps at me with a refusal."
"Perhaps you don't ask him right," suggested the father. "Perhaps you don't speak kindly to him. I hardly think that William is ill-disposed and disobliging naturally. There must be some fault on your part, I am sure."
"I don't know how I can be in fault, father," said Edgar.
"William refused to let you have his knife, the other day, although he was not using it himself, did he not?"
"Do you remember how you asked him for it?"
"No, sir, not now, particularly."
"Well, as I happened to overhear you, I can repeat your words, though I hardly think I can get your very tone and manner. Your words were, 'Here, lend me your knife, Bill!' and your voice and manner were exceedingly offensive. I did not at all wonder that William refused your request. If you had spoken to him in a kind manner, I am sure he would have handed you his knife, instantly. But no one likes to be ordered, in a domineering way, to do anything at all. I know you would resent it in William, as quickly as he resents it in you. Correct your own fault, my son, and in a little while you will have no complaint to make of William."
Edgar felt rebuked. What his father said, he saw to be true.
"Whenever you want William to do anything for you," continued the father, "use kind words instead of harsh ones, and you will find him as obliging as you could wish. I have observed you both a good deal, and I notice that you rarely ever speak to William in a proper manner, but are rude and overbearing. Correct this evil in yourself, and all will be right with him. Kind words are far more powerful than harsh words, and their effect a hundred-fold greater."
On the next day, as Edgar was at work in the garden, and William standing at the gate, looking on, Edgar wanted a rake that was in the summer-house. He was just going to say, "Go and get me that rake, Bill!" but he checked himself, and made his request in a different form, and in a better tone than those words would have been uttered in.
"Won't you please get me the small rake that lies in the summer-house, William?" he said. The words and tone involved a request, not a command, and William instantly replied —
"Certainly," and bounded away to get the rake for his brother.
"Thank you," said Edgar, as he received the rake.
"Don't you need the watering-pot?" asked William.
"Yes, I do; and you may bring it full of water, if you please," was the reply.
Off William went for the watering-pot, and soon returned with it full of water. As he stood near one of Edgar's flower-beds, he forgot himself, and stepped back with his foot upon a bed of pansies.
"There! just look at you!" exclaimed Edgar, thrown off his guard.
William, who had felt drawn toward his brother on account of his kind manner, was hurt at this sudden change in his words and tone. He was tempted to retort harshly, and even to set his foot more roughly upon the pansies. But he checked himself, and, turning away, walked slowly from the garden.
Edgar, who had repented of his rude words and unkind manner the moment he had time to think, was very sorry that he had been thrown off his guard, and resolved to be more careful in the future. And he was more careful. The next time he spoke to his brother, it was in a kind and gentle manner, and he saw its effect. Since then, he has been watchful over himself, and now he finds that William is one of the most obliging boys anywhere to be found.
"So much for kind words, my son," said his father, on noticing the great change that had taken place. "Never forget, throughout your whole life, that kind words are far more potent than harsh ones. I have found them so, and you have already proved the truth of what I say."
And so will every one who tries them. Make the experiment, young friends, and you will find it to succeed in every case.