Look at the Other Side
Timothy Shay Arthur
"I don't like Mr. Monto at all," said Mr. Jones.
"Nor I," replied Mrs. Mayberry.
"Take him for better or worse," added Mr. Lee, "and I think he is the strangest and most inconsistent man I ever saw."
"Inconsistent!" resumed Mr. Jones. "He is worse than inconsistent. Inconsistencies may be pardoned, as constitutional defects and peculiarities of character. But he is worse than inconsistent, as I said."
"Yes, that he is," chimed in Mrs. Mayberry. "What do you think I heard of him last week?"
"What?" said Mr. Jones.
"Yes, what did you hear?" asked Mrs. Lee.
"Do you know Mr. Barker?"
"There isn't a more gentlemanly man living than Mr. Barker."
"Well, what of him?"
"He was in Mr. Monto's store one day last week, and happened to say something the little man did not like, when he fired up and insulted him most grossly."
"Yes. Mr. Barker told me himself. He said he was never more hurt in his life."
"He left the store, of course."
"Oh, yes. He turned on his heel and walked out, and says he will never darken the door of Monto's store again."
"It is too bad, this habit of insulting people which Monto has. I know several people who are hot as fire against him."
"If there were nothing worse about him than that," said Mr. Jones, "I would be glad. His conduct towards the young man he raised was unpardonable."
"What was that? I never heard about it," remarked Mr. Lee.
"He had a young man whom he had raised from a lad, and who, it is said, was always faithful to his interests. Toward the last he became wild, having fallen into bad company. If Monto had been patient and forbearing toward him, the young man might have been reclaimed from his error; but his irascibility and impatience with everything that did not go by square and rule, caused him to deal harshly with faults that needed a milder corrective. The young man, of course, grew worse. At last he got himself into a difficulty, and was arrested. Bail was demanded for his appearance to stand a trial for misconduct and breach of law. Monto was sent for to go his bail; but he heartlessly refused, and the poor fellow was thrown into prison, where he lay four months, and was then, after a trial, dismissed with a reprimand from the court. Feeling himself disgraced by confinement in a jail, he enlisted in the army as soon as he got free, and has gone off to the Indian country in the West. Isn't it sad? The ruin of that young man lies at Monto's door. His blood is on the skirts of his garments!"
"Dreadful to think of! Isn't it?" said Mrs. Mayberry. "Just imagine my son or your son thus cruelly dealt by! A fiend in human shape couldn't have done more!"
"It'll come back upon him one of these days. I believe in retribution. No man can do such things with impunity," added Mr. Lee. "Mark my words for it — Monto will repent of this, as well as a good many other acts of his life, before he dies."
"He's the meanest man I ever saw," said Mr. Jones. "I don't believe he ever gave a dollar for charitable purposes in his life."
"You may possibly err, there," remarked a fourth in the company, who had not before spoken.
"I would like to see the man, Mr. Berry, who can point to a benevolent act of Monto's," returned Mr. Jones in a decided voice.
"Perhaps," said Mr. Berry, "if we were as willing to look at the other side of men's characters, we would not entertain the poor opinion of them we do. If we were to look as closely at the good as we do at the bad, we might find, perhaps, as much to praise as we do to blame. When I was a boy, I had a penny given to me, and was about buying a large, seemingly fine apple, when my brother said in a warning voice, 'Look at the other side.' I did look, and found it rotten! When I became a man, I remembered the lesson, and determined that I would not be deceived by fair appearances of character, but would be careful to look at the other side for blemishes. I saw enough of these, even in the best, to sicken me with mankind. A few years passed, and I was glad to change my habit of observation. I began to look at the other and brighter side. The result surprised and pleased me. I found more good in men than I had supposed. Even in the worst there were some redeeming qualities."
"You will find few in Monto," said Mr. Lee.
"Do you see that man on the other side of the street?" asked Mr. Berry.
"Yes; that's the one I mean. I'll call him over, if you have no objection, and ask him a question or two. I think he can say something bearing on the subject of our present discourse."
The man was called, and he came over and entered the store of Mr. Jones, where the conversation happened to occur.
"Good morning, Miller! How are you today?" said Mr. Berry.
"Good morning! You've quite a party here. All friends, I see."
"We seem to have met by one of those happy accidents that sometimes occur. How are you getting along now, Miller? You've been through some pretty tight places, I believe."
"Yes, and, thanks to a good Providence I am through them with a whole skin."
"Cause for congratulation, certainly. We meet with some hard rubs in our journey through life."
"Indeed we do. Adverse circumstances try us severely, and try our friends also. It has been so in my case. I thought I had a good many friends, until trouble came; but, as you know, there were few to stand by me when I most needed support."
"But you met with friends?"
"Yes, friends in need, who are friends indeed."
"And they were among those who had made no professions, and upon whom you did not feel that you had any claims?"
"Exactly so. This was particularly the case in one instance. Through losses, mistakes, and from errors on account of which I do not attempt to excuse myself, my business became embarrassed. What little real estate I had was thrown into market and sacrificed, but this did not meet my necessities. In the hope of weathering the storm, I removed from the handsome store I occupied into one at half the rent, reduced all expenses both in my business and family, but still I was not able, without the most untiring exertions, to meet my payments. More than half my time I was on the street, engaged in temporary expedients to raise money. I was harassed to death, and in daily dread of failure. In this unhappy posture of my affairs, I tried to get some permanent assistance from friends who were able enough to afford it, and who knew me well. But they were all afraid to risk anything.
"One day I had been out from nine o'clock until two, using my best efforts to obtain sufficient money to meet my notes. I had a thousand dollars to pay, and could only thus far raise five hundred. Everywhere that I could think of going I went, but no one would help me through my difficulty. Dispirited and alarmed at the perilous position of my affairs, I returned to my store, in order to sit down and reflect for a few minutes. I thought over all my business acquaintance, but there were none upon whom I had not already called, that I felt free to ask for the loan of money. Things seemed desperate. Something must be done, or I would be ruined. Already the finger of time was past the mark of two. In less than an hour my paper would be dishonored, unless I could in some way command the sum of five hundred dollars. I thought, and thought, until I felt stupid. At last a man whom I had never liked much came up before my mind. I had some little acquaintance with him, and knew, or supposed, that he had money. The idea of going to him I would not at first entertain. But things were desperate. At last I started up, determined to see this man.
"'He can but refuse me,' I murmured to myself.
"'It is past two o'clock,' said I abruptly, as I met him standing at his counter, 'and I am still five hundred dollars short. Can you lend me that sum for a few days?'
"I expected him to say 'no.' What was my surprise then to hear him reply —
"'I can, and with pleasure.'
"I could hardly believe my ears. But by the assistance of my eyes, when he put a check for the amount I had asked for into my hands, I was fully assured that he was in earnest. I don't know that I ever stopped to thank him, so overjoyed was I at such unexpected and cheerfully offered relief. Three or four days afterward I took him the money he had loaned me.
"'Keep it longer, if you desire to do so. I have no present use for it,' said he.
"I hardly knew whether to take him at his word or not. But necessity is an eloquent pleader.
"'If you can spare it as well as not, it will be an accommodation. My payments are heavy in the next ten days,' I replied.
"'Retain the use of it and welcome,' said he kindly. After a pause, he inquired how I was getting along, and did it with so much sincerity that I was tempted to state frankly the position of my affairs, and did so. He listened with a good deal of interest, and afterward asked many questions as to the nature and profits of my business. I concealed nothing from him in favor or against myself as a business-man.
"'You must be sustained, Mr. Miller,' said he. 'I have a few thousand dollars uninvested, that I will keep free for six months or so. As far as you need assistance in meeting your payments, I will afford it. Pay no more exorbitant interests; waste no more time in running about after money; but put all your thoughts and energies down to your business, and twelve months from today will see you freed from financial embarrassment.'
"And he was right."
"He was certainly a noble fellow," said Mr. Jones. "Pity there were not more like him!"
"That it is," remarked Mrs. Mayberry.
"He belongs to another grade of beings than your Montos."
"Who?" Miller spoke quickly.
"We were talking of Monto when I called you," said Mr. Berry. "Our friends have a very poor opinion of him."
"Of Mr. Monto? Why, it is of him that I just now spoke!"
"Of Monto!" ejaculated Lee.
"Certainly. He it was who so generously befriended me."
"Impossible!" ejaculated Mrs. Mayberry.
"Not at all, for it is true. I never was more mistaken in anyone in my life than in Mr. Monto. He has his faults and defects of character, as all men have. He is irascible and impatient, and makes in consequence a great many enemies."
"He was certainly kind to you, Mr. Miller," said Mrs. Mayberry. "But still, I don't believe in him. Look at the way he treated that poor young man whom he raised from a boy. That stamps his character. That shows him to be cruel and vindictive."
"There is another side to that story, without doubt," remarked Mr. Berry.
"That there is," said Miller; "and suppose we look at it. Monto knew that young man much better than you or I, or any of us. He had borne with his irregular habits and evil conduct for years, as well as a man of his peculiar temperament could bear with them."
"A precious kind of forbearance it was, no doubt. It isn't in him to bear with anyone," broke in Mr. Jones.
"Will you censure a man for what he can't help?" asked Mr. Miller.
"I don't know that we should," was replied.
"It is clear that we ought not; for to do so would be for us to ask of him an impossibility, and censure him for not performing it. Mr. Monto is a man, as we all know, of exceedingly impatient temper. Keep that in view. He takes this boy when quite young, and educates him as well as teaches him his business. Before he is of age he abuses the confidence reposed in him by his benefactor, neglects his business, associates with wicked companions, and purloins his money. Still Monto bears with him, in the hope that he will change. But he grows worse and worse; and at length, after a long series of embezzlements at home, gets into a difficulty, and is sent to jail to await the judgment of the law in his case. I happened to be in Mr. Monto's store when he was sent for to bail the young man out.
"'No,' he said firmly to the messenger, 'he is much better in prison than out.'
"The man went away, and Monto, turning to me, said —
"'That, Mr. Miller, is the most painful thing I have done in my whole life. But to have acted otherwise would have been wrong. Kind admonition, stern reproof, angry expostulation — all have failed with this young man, in whom I cannot help feeling a strong interest. I will now leave him to the consequences of his own acts, and to the beneficial results of his own reflections. If these fail to reform him, there is no hope.' This was the spirit in which it was done. He did not attend court when the trial came on, but he had a messenger there, who kept him constantly advised of the proceedings. The acquittal gave him great pleasure, and he expected the young man would return to him, changed and penitent. He was, alas! grievously mistaken. The enlistment hurt him exceedingly. I could perceive that his voice was unsteady when he spoke of it. If he erred in his conduct, it was an error of judgment. He meant to do good. But I do not believe he erred. In my opinion, the young man is fit only for the grade he now occupies, and he is better off where he is."
"There is some good in everyone," said Mr. Berry, when Miller ceased speaking; "and we will find it, if we look at the other side."
"No truer word than that was ever spoken," returned Mr. Miller. "Yes, there is good in every one; and more good than evil in Monto, you may all be assured."
The censurers of Monto approved the words by a marked and half-mortified silence.
Yes, there is some good in everyone; there is another side. Let us look for this good rather than for what is evil, and we will think better of mankind than we are now disposed to do.