The Young Teacher
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1852
"I wish I knew how to read!" said one little boy to another.
"Then why don't you learn?" asked his companion.
"Because I have no one to teach me, and my mother is too poor to send me to school," replied the boy.
The name of the little boy who could read was Albert Parker, and the name of the one who could not read was Henry Morrison.
"I think I could teach you," said Albert.
"Do you? Oh, I wish you would try, for I want to learn to read very much."
The earnestness with which Henry spoke, made Albert resolve that he would at least try, although, as he was but a small boy, and had only just learned to read himself, he did not feel certain that he could teach Henry; but, then, he determined in his own mind, as young as he was, that he would make the trial.
"Will you come into our house now, and try to learn? I have got all my books there."
Of course Henry consented, and the two boys went into the house, and sat down on two little chairs, that Albert's mother gave them to sit on, when she learned her son's kind intentions. She felt very glad to see him, so early in life, in the effort to do good; for she was a woman who loved the Lord and her neighbors, and had taught her boy that it was right for him to try and do the same. She looked on and listened, with a heart full of pleasure, to the young teacher and his pupil.
And Henry commenced the lesson and went all through it, without missing a single one of the little words. Then Albert taught him more words, and soon he could say all of these. For an hour the little boys were all intent, the one in teaching — and the other in learning. At the end of this time, Henry could give the true sound of all the words of two letters in the primer.
Albert's mother had been attentive to all that passed, as she sat engaged in sewing, and when the little boys laid aside their book, she said —
"You must come here every day, Henry, and let Albert teach you to read."
Henry promised that he would come, and then the little boys went out and played until it was time for Henry to go home.
On the next day, after Albert had returned from school, Henry Morrison came again, and took another lesson. And so he continued coming every day. At the end of a week he could spell out some of the easy lines that were in the first reading book, such as —
"My son, go not in the way of bad men."
Now Albert's father, when he saw that Henry Morrison was so eager to learn, thought within himself, that he would send him to school. So, after he had been to see, and had talked with his mother, who promised to keep him always clean, and his clothes neatly mended — he entered him at the same school to which his own son went.
The reason why Mr. Parker was willing to place Henry at the same school to which his own son was going, was because he saw that Henry was a good boy; that he never said bad words, nor had any bad habits. He was not, therefore, afraid to let his own son be in company with him.
You may suppose that Henry Morrison learned very fast at school. And so he did. In a few months he caught up to Albert and soon went rapidly past him. But it is pleasing to be able to say, that Albert Parker had not a single unkind or envious feeling toward Henry on this account, but was, on the contrary, exceedingly pleased.
"How is it, Albert," his father said to him one day, "that Henry learns so much faster than you do?"
Albert thought, at first, that this question was meant for a rebuke, but when he looked up into his father's face, he saw that it was not.
"I don't know how it is, father," he answered, "but he can and does learn faster than I can — and I am glad of it."
"Glad of it, Albert! And why so?"
"Why, you know, father, that Henry can't go to school as long as I can, and so he ought to learn a great deal faster. I shall be learning on still, when he has to be put out to work, to get his own living."
"And so you do not envy him, because he learns so much faster than you do?"
"Oh no, father; why should I? It would be wicked in me, would it not?"
"Certainly, my son. And I am glad to hear you say that you are pleased to see your little friend learn faster than you can. Still, you must try your best."
"And so I do, father. And I learn as fast as any boy in my class. But the schoolmaster says that Henry is the fastest learner in the whole school."
For three years Mr. Parker continued to send Henry to school, after which it became necessary for him to go out to work, as his poor mother could not support him any longer. When he left the school, he was far in advance of all the other scholars, and his desire to learn was still greater than it had ever been.
He felt very grateful to Mr. Parker, and, before he went to his work, came and thanked him for his great kindness to him. While the poor boy thus expressed his gratitude, Mr. Parker felt doubly repaid for all he had done.
"You are now far in advance, Henry, of most boys when they go to a trade," said he, "and if you will only employ your spare time in improving yourself, you may rise high in the world, and be very useful when you grow up to be a man. Some of the best and greatest men in the country, when boys, were poor like you, and had to work at trades. Persevere, then, as they did, and you will rise as high. But above all, Henry, ever remember that you are in the presence of the good and holy Lord, who cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Let His commandments be always before you. Do not break the least one of them willfully; for, if you do, unhappiness will surely follow. And now, my boy," his kind benefactor added to fervently, "may our Heavenly Father ever have you in his holy keeping."
Throughout his whole life, Henry Morrison did not forget the impression of that moment. As an apprentice, instead of wasting, as too many boys do, their leisure time in idleness — his school books were always resorted to, and some information gained at every spare moment. Still, he was careful never to neglect his work, nor to hurry through it so as not to do it well. This his master, who was a kind man, saw, and he therefore took pleasure in seeing him at his books, when his work was done.
Albert continued to be the friend of Henry. They met every week at the Sunday-school, and frequently the latter would go home and spend the evening in Mr. Parker's family.
Thus he continued to improve his mind, until he arrived at the age of manhood, when he moved many hundred miles away from his native place.
It was about ten years afterward, that Albert Parker was traveling in the West, and stopped a few days at Louisville, Kentucky. He attended church on Sunday, as was his custom, whether at home or abroad; for the pious instructions received in early life had been like good seed sown upon good ground.
When the minister arose in the pulpit, there seemed to Albert something strangely familiar in his face and form; but when he spoke, his voice sounded like that of an old friend.
"Surely I have seen him before," said he, as he looked at him earnestly, and tried to remember where and when he had met with him. But he could recall neither the time, the place, nor the circumstance.
He listened to the sermon with the deepest attention. It was full of true and beautiful thoughts, and the style and language were heart-warming. His text was —
"Cast your bread upon the waters — for you shall find it after many days." Ecclesiastes 11:1.
In closing, he said — "I will give you a practical illustration of what I have been trying to impress upon your minds. Two little boys, about ten years of age, were playing together. One of them was a poor boy, and could not read. As young as he was, he felt an anxious desire to learn like other boys, but his mother was poor, and could not send him to school, 'I wish I could read!' said he, to his companion. 'Then why don't you learn?' asked the other little boy; and he replied, 'Because I have no one to teach me, and my mother is too poor to send me to school.' Then the boy who could read said, that 'he thought he could teach him, and if the other were willing, he would try.' Of course he was willing, and the two little boys sat down together, one as teacher and the other as scholar. While the one endeavored to impart the little that he had learned, the other tried as hard to receive what his young friend so earnestly endeavored to give. And in this way the poor boy learned to read. The father of his little friend, on seeing him so anxious to learn, sent him to school for three years. That poor boy, in the providence of the Lord, is now your minister. His kind teacher he has neither seen nor heard from for many years, but he yet hopes to meet him. The bread cast, more than twenty years ago, upon the waters — he will yet find."
As soon as the minister began to speak of that early scene, the countenance of Henry Morrison grew at once familiar to Albert Parker. Their meeting after service was indeed a joyful one. Tears moistened their eyes, as they grasped each other's hands and uttered their heartfelt expressions of delight.
Years have passed since that pleasant interview, and both are now ministers, eminent for talents and usefulness.