By Timothy Shay Arthur
Charles Murray left home, with his books in his satchel, for school. Before starting, he kissed his little sister, and patted Juno on the head — and as he went singing away, he felt as happy as any little boy could wish to feel. Charles was a good-tempered lad, but he had the fault common to a great many boys, that of being tempted and enticed by others to do things which he knew to be contrary to the wishes of his parents. Such acts never made him feel any happier; for the fear that his disobedience would be found out, and the consciousness of having done wrong — were far from being pleasant companions.
On the present occasion, as he walked briskly in the direction of the school, he repeated over his lessons in his mind, and was intent upon having them so perfect as to be able to repeat every word. He had gone nearly half the distance, and was still thinking over his lessons, when he stopped suddenly, as a voice called out,
Turning in the direction from which the voice came, he saw Archy Benton, with his school basket in his hand; but he was going from — instead of in the direction of the school.
"Where are you going, Archy?" asked Charles, calling out to him.
"Into the woods, for chestnuts."
"Ain't you going to school, today?"
"No, indeed. There was a sharp frost last night, and Uncle John says the wind will rattle down the chestnuts like hail."
"Did your father say you might go?"
"No, indeed. I asked him, but he said I couldn't go until Saturday. But the hogs are in the woods, and will eat the chestnuts all up before Saturday. So I am going today. Come, go along, won't you? It is such a fine day, and the ground will be covered with chestnuts. We can get home at the usual time, and no one will suspect that we were not at school."
"I would like to go very much," said Charley; "but I know father will be greatly displeased, if he finds it out, and I am afraid he will get to know it, in some way."
"How could he get to know it? Isn't he at his store all the time?"
"But he might think to ask me if I was at school. And I never will tell a lie."
"You could say yes, and not tell a lie, either," returned Archy. "You were at school yesterday."
"No, I couldn't. A lie, father says, is in the intent to deceive. He would, of course, mean to ask whether I was at school today, and if I said yes, I would tell a lie."
"It isn't so clear to me that you would. At any rate, I don't see such great harm in a little fib. It doesn't hurt anybody."
"Father says a falsehood hurts a boy a great deal more than he thinks for. And one day he showed me in the Bible where liars were classed with murderers, and other wicked spirits, in Hell. I can't tell a lie, Archy."
"There won't be any need of your doing so," urged Archy; "for I am sure he will never think to ask you about it. Why should he?"
"I don't know. But whenever I have been doing anything wrong, he is sure to begin to question me, and lead me on until I betray the secret of my fault."
"Never mind. Come along with me. It is such a fine day. We shan't have another like it. It will rain on Saturday, I'll bet anything. So come along, now, and let us have a day in the woods, while we can."
Charles was very strongly tempted. When he thought of the confinement of school, and then of the freedom of a day in the woods — he felt much inclined to go with Archy.
"Come along," said Archy, as Charles stood balancing the matter in his mind. And he took hold of his arm, and drew him in a direction opposite from the school. "Come! you are just the boy I want. I was thinking about you the moment before I saw you."
The temptation to Charles was very strong. "I don't believe I will be found out," he said to himself; "and it is such a pleasant day to go into the woods!"
Still he held back, and thought of his father's displeasure if he should discover that he had played the truant. The word "truant," that he repeated mentally, decided the matter in his mind, and he exclaimed, in a loud and decided voice, as he dragged away from the hand of Archy, that had still retained its hold on his arm, "I've never played truant yet, and I don't think I ever will. Father says he never played truant when he was a boy; and I'd like to say the same thing when I get to be a man."
"Nonsense, Charley! come, go with me," urged Archy.
But Charles Murray's mind was made up not to play the truant. So he started off for school, saying, as he did so —
"No, I can't go, Archy; and if I were you, I would wait until Saturday. You will enjoy it so much better when you have your fathers consent. It always takes away more than half the pleasure of any enjoyment, to think that it is obtained at the cost of disobedience. Come! go to school with me now, and I will go into the woods with you on Saturday."
"No, I can't wait until Saturday. I'm sure it will rain by that time; and if it don't, the hogs will eat up every nut that has fallen before that time."
"There'll be plenty left on the trees, if they do. It's as fine sport to knock them down, as to pick them up."
But Archy's purpose was settled, and nothing that Charles Murray could say had any influence with him. So the boys parted, the one for his school, and the other for a stolen holiday in the woods.
The moment Charles was alone again, he felt no longer any desire to go with Archy. He had successfully resisted the temptation — and the allurement was gone. But even for listening to temptation he had some small punishment — for he was late to school by nearly ten minutes, and had not his lessons as perfect as usual, for which the teacher felt called upon to reprimand him. But this was soon forgotten; and he was so good a boy through the whole day, and studied all his lessons so diligently, that when evening came, the teacher, who had not forgotten the reprimand, said to him:
"You have been the best boy in the school today, Charles. Tomorrow morning try and come in time, and be sure that your lessons are all well committed to memory."
Charles felt very light and cheerful as he went running, skipping, and singing homeward. His day had been well spent — and happiness was his reward. When he came in sight of home, there was no dread of meeting his father and mother, such as he would have felt if he had played the truant. Everything looked bright and pleasant, and when Juno came bounding out to meet him, he couldn't help hugging the favorite dog in the joy he felt at seeing her.
When Charles met his mother, she looked at him with a more earnest and affectionate gaze than usual. And then the boy noticed that her countenance became serious.
"Ain't you well, mother?" asked Charles.
"Yes, my dear, I am very well," she replied; "but I saw something an hour ago which has made me feel sad. Archy Benton was brought home from the woods this afternoon, where he had gone for chestnuts, instead of going to school, as he should have done, dreadfully hurt. He had fallen from a tree. Both his arms are broken, and the doctor fears that he has received some internal injury that may cause his death."
Charles turned pale, when his mother said this.
"Boys rarely get hurt, except when they are acting disobediently, or doing some harm to others," remarked Mrs Murray. "If Archy had gone to school, this dreadful accident would not have happened. His father told him that he might go for chestnuts on Saturday, and if he had waited until then, I am sure he might have gone into the woods and received no harm, for all who do right are protected from evil."
"He tried to persuade me to go with him," said Charles, "and I was strongly tempted to do so. But I resisted the temptation, and have felt glad about it ever since."
Mrs. Murray took her son's hand, and pressing it hard, said, with much feeling,
"How rejoiced I am that you were able to resist his persuasions to do wrong. Even if you had not been hurt yourself, the injury received by Archy would have revealed to us, and that you were with him, and then how unhappy your father and I would have been, I cannot tell. And you would have been unhappy, too. Ah! my son, there is only one true course for all of us, and that is, to DO RIGHT. Every deviation from this path brings trouble. An act of a moment may make us wretched for days, weeks, months, or perhaps years. It will be a long, long time before Archy is free from pain of body or mind — it may be that he will never recover. Think how miserable his parents must feel; and all because of this single act of disobedience."
We cannot say how often Charles said to himself, that evening and the next day, when he thought of Archy, "Oh, how glad I am that I did not go with him!"
When Saturday came, the father and mother of Charles Murray gave him permission to go into the woods for chestnuts. Two or three other boys, who were his school companions, likewise received liberty to go; and they joined Charles, and altogether made a pleasant party. It did not rain, nor had the hogs eaten up all the nuts, for the lads found plenty under the tall old trees, and in a few hours filled their bags and baskets. Charles said, when he came home, that he had never enjoyed himself better, and was so glad that he had not agreed to go with Archy Benton.
It was a lesson he never afterward forgot. Whenever he was tempted to do what he knew was wrong, he thought of Archy's day in the woods, and the temptation instantly left him. The boy who had been so badly hurt, did not die, as the doctor feared; but he suffered great pain, and was ill for a long time.