How John Goodnow
Got His Own Way
by Mrs. Z. B.
He was all by himself in as pretty a patch of sunny green meadow-land as
you could wish to see, yet he had plenty of company. To say nothing of
the birds chattering on the fence, the tall thick grass was as full of
hopping, fluttering, and creeping things as a wheat beard is of grain.
These tiny little creatures seemed to find life so pleasant and
comfortable, and the glisten and "swish" of John Goodnow's scythe so
very odd and amusing, that they kept only a little out of his way as he
mowed, and when he stopped to whet his scythe they flocked around and
settled on his boot-legs, on the brim of his hat, and even in the
creases of his shirt sleeves, to see how he did it.
John Goodnow was just sixteen. He was a manly boy, strong, straight, and
good-looking. He had plenty of spirit and energy, and liked what he was
doing well enough; but he had some ideas in his head which made him
think he could do something else much—very much—better.
John's father did not happen to think about John as John thought about
himself. This very often happens between parents and their children.
Your parents are older and wiser than you, but then you boys and girls
often think a great deal more, and with more good sense, than you get
credit for. When your parents do not think as you do about what you are
to be and do in life, it is hard to tell which is wisest, and there is
no sure rule to help you out; but I will tell you one little thing that
I think it will be good for you to remember; it is very much in your own
power to decide for yourself, to get your own way by giving it up, as
"I wish father could see this as I do," John thought.
He had put the whetstone in his pocket, and was once more leaning to the
"Of course I can be a farmer, and of course farmers are as necessary
as Presidents; and a farmer can be a President, and eat potatoes and
corn in the White House, instead of hoeing and hilling them in the
field. But I want to be a lawyer, and that settles it for me. I just
wish it would do as much for father. He did look queer when I told him
I didn't believe a lawyer that was always hankerin' after a farm would
amount to much in lawyerin'. Mother said, 'Do let the boy have his way;
it's his life he's got to live, you know, not yours.'
"She's so sensible, and just the best mother in the world. I made up my
mind, when she said that, that if I did get my way, I'd just like to be
the one to fix Uncle Si. Stingy old fellow! I'd make him pay mother what
he owes her. Guess he knows it, an' that's why he looks at me so sour,
and tells father to 'keep him at the plough; he'll never come to nuthin'
moonin' over them lyin' lawyer books.'"
John smiled, with a bright, mischievous look, as if he had already won
the case against his uncle.
Then he whistled till he came to the end of the swath. He liked the
sweet, fresh smell that rose from the cut grass.
"I know farming is good, useful work," he thought, "and pleasant, when
any one likes it; but I want to do what I can do best, and I'm sure it's
law. When things happen, I want to know how they happen, and who was
wrong, and how to fix things so that they'll happen right. It just makes
me tingle all over when I can get hold of a case, and read up all about
it, and I can talk it over with, mother. She's smarter'n a steel-trap,
and might have been a lawyer herself. But I can't show off to father at
all. He shuts right down on me so—almost makes me think I don't know
anything, after all. He's a real good father, though, and I hate to
John set his lips, and his young face looked troubled. He cut the swath
very neatly to the edge of the brook as he went along.
"I told him I'd say no more about it now," John went on thinking, as he
looked at the pretty rippling stream, which kept up such a merry little
song over its round pebbles, "and I promised him I'd stick to the farm
for this year, and do my best to like it, and so I will. Mother said,
'It isn't because he doesn't like you to be a lawyer; it's because he
thinks you aren't old enough to judge, and he thinks good farming is the
best and noblest work in the world, and that you can't help liking it if
you try. But he won't stand in your way a moment, my boy, when he sees
that you know your own mind. You just yield to him first, and he'll
yield to you last.'"
NOON-TIME IN THE MEADOW.
It was nearing noon, and the sun was hot. John lifted his hat just
enough to wipe his forehead; then resting the scythe upon the bank, he
leaned against its curving handle. He looked well as he stood there,
like a boy who would one day be a man of purpose, and will to carry out
his purpose. He was tired, just tired enough to make rest sweet. He
looked across the little hollow at the foot of the meadow toward his
home. He was very hungry, and glad to see a little girl coming down the
path through the hollow with a pail in her hand. "Thank goodness!
there's Kitty coming with the lunch. I'm hungry enough to eat a crow,
feathers and all. I know just what's in that pail—ham sandwich, a big
slice of brown-bread, bottle of milk or sweetened water, and some of
mother's apple-pie, with a slice of cheese. Hurry up!" he shouted aloud,
in a strong, pleasant voice—"hurry up, Kitty dear; I'm as hungry as a
When the end of the year came, Mr. Goodnow did not wait for John to
speak. On New-Year's Eve, just before bed-time, he laid down his paper,
crossed the room, put his hand on John's shoulder, and, as if only an
hour instead of seven months had passed since he had last spoken of what
he wished John to be, he said, "Well, my boy, speak out: will ye be
farmer or lawyer?"
John rose quickly, and looked at his father. "I will be a lawyer, if I
can," said he. "But, father, I do wish you could like it;" and his voice
trembled a little.
"I do like it—I like it very much," said Mr. Goodnow, quickly; "for if
ye can do so well as ye have done at a work ye don't take to, I'm sure
ye'll prove a master-hand at what yer heart's so sot on. Ye've helped me
in my way, and I'll help ye in yourn. Ye shall have the best schoolin'
in law that money can buy, and ye've shown ye'll do the rest yourself.
Happy New-Year, my boy!" Mr. Goodnow held out his hand, and John took it
with a grip that made his father wince and smile at the same time.
Then John went to his mother, who, of course, knew all about it, and was
as happy, yes, happier, than her boy over the happiness which he had
earned so well. When he went to his own room, he was so busy thinking,
that it was some time before he looked up; but when he did he started,
and shouted "Jerusalem!" as if the word had been a bullet and he the
gun. On the wall over the table were three pictures which had not been
there before. One was of Charles Sumner, one of Rufus Choate, and one of
Abraham Lincoln. On the table beneath was this note in his mother's
"I want you, my own good boy, to learn what you attempt to know as
thoroughly, and do what you believe to be right as fearlessly, as
Charles Sumner did. Rufus Choate had the great power to so move
men's minds that they were like something melted which he could
shape as he chose. If you can be as brave, tender, and good as
Abraham Lincoln was, I shall wish with all my heart that you may
have power like Rufus Choate's and opportunity like Charles
Sumner's. You mustn't fret about father. He's as pleased and
satisfied as we are. You won him just as I told you you would, by
yielding. It is more than a month since he brought home the books
you will find on your table. They are for your first term in the
law-school. Now good-night, and a happy New-Year from your loving
Under the books on the table lay a flat package which his mother did not
know about, as Mr. Goodnow had slyly placed it there the last thing
before John went up to bed. John untied it, and found a fine picture of
Horace Greeley, and this note from his father:
"You needn't be afraid of putting Horace Greeley along of them
chaps your mother has given you. He can stand it if they can; and
they'll make a good beginning of your picter-gallery. I've heard
tell of lawyers getting to be editors, too, afore now. If you
should ever run a paper, what you know about farming won't hurt it
Many years have passed away since John talked with himself as he mowed
the home meadow on that pleasant summer morning. If I should tell you
the real name of John Goodnow, you would know at once how well his good
mother's wish had been granted in the noble career of her well-known
son. And there isn't a father in the land prouder of his son than Farmer
Goodnow of his son, Judge ——.