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How John Goodnow Got His Own Way

by Mrs. Z. B. Gustafson

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 John did.

"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 scythe.

"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 disappoint him."

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.'"


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 cat."

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 hand:

"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 none."

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 ——.