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How Nick Learned Manners by Atwood Miller

"Hallo, Doc! Where'd you get that horse?" called Nick Hammond as he approached his father and Dr. Morris, as they were talking at the gate one evening.

"Why, halloo, little man! I got this horse over the river. Ever see him before?" answered the old doctor, genially, little thinking that he was somewhat to blame for Nick's lack of good manners in thus accosting an older person.

When the doctor had gone, Mr. Hammond called Nick to him and said, "Nick, did not your mother tell you last evening not to say, 'Halloo,' when you meet people?"

Nick's eyes fell, for he remembered, and he said, "Yes, sir."

"Then why did you say it to Dr. Morris this evening?"

"O, I don't think he cares what I say to him!"

"No, I do not suppose he does care; but I do, and I think if your mother had heard you address the doctor as Doc, she would have been very much ashamed; for she has tried very hard to teach you good manners."

"Well, everybody says 'Halloo,' papa, and I can't help it, and I'm sure Mr.
Evans said 'Doc' when he was talking out there this evening."

"It is true that a great many people do use both those words, but that is no reason why you should use them, when you have been told not to do so. There is also some difference, I think, between the age of Mr. Evans and yourself. Men can say things to one another that would be quite improper for a boy to say to a man. Now I want you to be more careful, and speak respectfully to every one you meet."

Nick went to his play, but he took up a string of reasoning like this: "Because I am the only boy mama has set out to make me as good as Mabel, and she doesn't allow me to use slang nor anything of the kind. I know if there were half a dozen boys here, it would be different. I suppose it is all right for girls and women, but, bah! I can't be a goody-goody. I am only a boy. I guess it won't pay to bother about good manners, like a girl. I am too busy these days, when there is no school, to learn manners or anything else, anyway," and he went off with his goat, to forget everything else.

Time after time Nick failed to heed what he had been told, and each time he had to suffer a just penalty; but it seemed as if he never could learn manners. The real reason was that he had no desire to have good manners.

One morning Mrs. Hammond said: "Now, Nick, I am expecting your Aunt Ella and Uncle Alfred today, and I want you to be on your guard while they are here, and not act as if you were a backwoods boy who does not know anything. I especially want you to be gentlemanly; for Uncle Alfred is such a stranger to us yet that he will not understand you, and will think less of your papa and myself for seeing you rude and ill-mannered. You see, you owe it to yourself to make every one like you as much as possible. They live so far away that it may be a long time before they will see you again."

"Well, I should like to see my new Uncle Alf. I hope they won't stay long; for I do hate to be afraid to halloo and do things."

"Now, don't say Uncle Alf, Nick. You know better than that. Say Uncle Alfred, but don't say it too often. As for making a noise, you can relieve yourself when away from the house, but I do not want you to talk when others are talking, and, above all, do not contradict them, no matter what they say."

"All right, mama, I'll try," promised Nick.

But, alas for his promise! It belonged to the large family of promises that Nick had been making for many months. It was as easily broken as a broom straw. Aunt Ella and her husband, who was president of a great Western college, were not long in seeing the worst side of little Nick. He repeatedly did the very things his mama had urged him not to do, and was recklessly disobedient in general.

The last day of the visit was to be spent with some distinguished friends of Uncle Alfred's at the Lake House, nine miles away. Mr. and Mrs. Hammond were going with them, and Nick was determined to go, too. When his mama went to her room to get ready, Nick followed her and begged her to take him. "No, Nick," she said, in a positive way, "I shall not take you anywhere until you learn to behave as a boy of your age should. Go to the dining-room and wait there until we are ready to start, and then you can come down to Grandma Hammond's and stay until four o'clock."

He knew that it was no use to tease, so he went to the couch in the dining-room. He felt very sullen and bitter, and threw himself down on the friendly pillows to indulge in a few tears. In a few moments he heard subdued voices on the veranda just outside the window. Aunt Ella was saying, "I know they would both enjoy the drive this lovely day." "Of course they would," said Uncle Alfred, "and I would like to have them with us, but what would Dr. and Mrs. Watson think of Nick? He surely is the rudest child I have ever known. I am sorry to cheat Mabel out of pleasure, for she is a dear little girl, but really Ella, I should be ashamed of Nick's behavior, shouldn't you?"

Nick waited to hear no more. He slipped out quickly, and said to the cook in the kitchen, "Please tell mama I didn't wait; I've gone to grandma's."

He was so quiet and gentle all day that Grandma Hammond worried a great deal, saying: "I never saw the like of it. The boy is either sick or something is going to happen to him."

That something had already happened to him, but grandma was not aware of it. For the first time in his life, Nick felt ashamed of himself. During that long, long day he made a strong resolution, which he never purposely broke, never to do anything to make himself or anybody else ashamed.—Atwood Miller, in Youth's Evangelist.

* * * * *

  "O! There are many actors who can play
  Greatly great parts, but rare indeed the soul
  Who can be great when cast for some small role;
  Yet that is what the world most needs,—big hearts
  That will shine forth and glorify poor parts
  In this strange drama, Life."