Bernard's Experiment by Anon
When the Headmaster sent for Gray Minor, on receipt of a telegram
from his home, the boys were in great consternation, because they all
regarded him as a ripping good fellow.
I wonder what's up, said one, and this speech expressed the
feeling of every boy. Then Gray Minor appeared, white, but determined,
and told them that, his widowed Mother being suddenly ruined, he would
have to leave the school at once.
I say, Gray, you're such a chap for experiment, perhaps you'll see
your way out of this fix; but, all the same, it's jolly hard lines on
you, said his greatest chum, wringing Gray's hand. The boys expressed
their grief in different ways, but each was equally sincere, and Gray
Minor departed, universally regretted.
Mrs Gray sat by the fire of the little cottage parlour, a
black-edged letter lying idly between her fingers. Very pale, she had
the appearance of one who had passed many sleepless nights. Outside,
the November sky was overcast, the rain was coming down in torrents,
and sad-looking people picked their way down the muddy lane under
streaming umbrellas to the railway-station.
Suddenly, a quick, firm footstep sounded on the little garden path,
and a boy's round face smiled in at the diamond-paned window like a ray
of bright sunshine. Mrs Gray almost ran to the door. Bernard, you must
be drenched! she cried.
No, Mother, not a bit of it, he laughed, taking off his streaming
It is such a dreadful day, she said, but her face had brightened
astonishingly at the sight of her brave boy.
Yes, but it has put a schemea grand scheme in my head! Wait until
I get my wet togs off and I'll tell you.
An experiment?already! oh, Bernard! Mrs Gray laughed with
actual joy: her faith in her only son was so unquestioning.
As Bernard came downstairs, the faithful old servant was carrying in
a substantial tea for her young master. Hullo, Dolly, he cried; I
haven't stayed up the remainder of the term, you see.
Ah, Mr Bernard, it's well you take it so lightlybut it's black
ruin this time and no mistake. My poor mistress has been fretting night
and day over it. Whatever is she to do?
Trust herself to me, said Bernard valiantly.
Dolly laughed. Why, you ain't sixteen, Mr Bernard, and not done
with your schooling. But, as parson said, so strange-like, on Sunday,
for his text`the only son of his mother and she was a widow'you're
all she has left.
When Mrs Gray and her son were alone she told Bernard the whole
history of their misfortunes. An unfortunate speculation on the part of
their trustee had left them almost penniless. There is nothing left to
us, she said, but this little cottage and seventeen pounds in the
cash-box. But, Bernard, she added, I grieve over nothing but your
school. You had such a brilliant future, and so many friends.
Oh, but there were to be so many new fellows next termnearly all
my chums were to leave, so don't grieve over that, answered Bernard,
ignoring her words about his future. Then he explained his
I have decided, he said, to sweep a crossing.
Sweep a crossing! Ah, that is what so many people say, but they
would never do it when it came to the point.
It's what I mean to do, said Bernard quietly. It's an
inspiration, Mother, I assure you. You say this cottage is freehold, is
it not, and worthhow much?
I have been offered one hundred pounds for it, but it is too near
the railway, and too much out of repair to be valuable.
We shall do better than that. Do you know how many people go down
this road daily to the station since all those new villas were built?
Mrs Gray shook her head.
Five hundred, and the place is growing likewell, like old boots.
Now, Mother, this is my scheme. You know how bad the approach to the
station is. You know, also, that the new asphalt path from the new
blocks of houses comes to our very garden gate. Well, people can come
so far without muddying their boots. Now, our garden abuts almost on
the railway-platform, so I propose sweeping a path straight across from
the road, putting up a gate at each end, and saving people five hundred
yards of quagmire, and a good five minutes in time, and a lot of
swear-words, and my charge for all these improvements will be one
The next morning, at half-past seven, the new path of forty yards
was swept from end to end, some of the palings were pulled down near
the railway-bank, and another small path swept up to the platform.
An old door was placed lengthwise over the front gate and painted
white, and on it, in somewhat clumsy printing, was the
announcement:Quickest way to Endwell Railway-Station. Dry all the
way. Admission, one penny.
About eight o'clock the business men came hurrying along under their
umbrellas, for it was still drizzling. They looked at Bernard in a
curious way and then at the signboard, but they scarcely grasped the
situation, and plunged heroically into the five hundred yards of mud.
At nine o'clock a wealthy stockbroker came panting along, late for
his train; so Bernard shouted to him: Come my way, Mr Blunt; it will
save you five hundred yards and all that horrid mud!
Hullo, Gray; back from school? he gasped. What's the idea, eh?
So Bernard told him his scheme in as few words as possible.
Then I'll be your first patron, my boy, and Mr Blunt held out a
shilling. There's your first capital.
Only a penny, laughed Bernard, pushing back the kind hand, and
pointing to his signboard.
Oh, we are proud, said Mr Blunt. Well, I wish you luck! Through
you I shall catch my train, and it means a little matter to me to the
tune of three hundred pounds.
A week after this, scores of people went through Bernard's garden
morning and evening, and the whole place rang with his plucky
experiment. Four pounds, five and sixpence for the first week, Mother;
but we will do better yet, said Bernard.
Many people came through the gates from sheer curiosity, and nearly
everyone preferred paying him the penny toll, instead of walking the
five hundred yards of uneven road, even on dry days! In the following
spring, Endwell suddenly grew into such an important place that the
railway company was compelled to enlarge the station, and a director
being informed of Bernard's experiment, and the distinct value of a
shorter approach, came to see Mrs Gray about her little property, but
she would not be talked over by the smart director. Then an
enterprising builder came, and made a very tempting offer. Still she
resisted. At last, however, the railway people offered a price which it
would have been folly to refuse, so Bernard was forced to give up his
Mrs Gray now lives in a pretty flat in South Kensington with her
faithful old Dolly, surrounded by many of her former luxuries, but she
is happiest in the possession of such a brave and noble son. Bernard's
future is assured, for he showed all the qualities that command success
in his last experiment.