The importance of honesty is the focus of two pieces appearing in the “Youth’s Department” of The Student in 1853. Edward is a model of honesty in “The Squirrel and the Honest Boy,” and his reputation for telling the truth works in his favor (though a reader has to wonder how well his lunch held up in a dinner basket with a squirrel trapped in it). “Breaking the Rules of School” shows that the consequences of disobedience could be amazingly dire.
Two pieces on behavior in school [from The Student, November 1853; pp. 12-13)
“The Squirrel and the Honest Boy”

Little Edward always spoke the truth. I don’t know that he ever in his life told a lie. Nor would he act a lie. In the school where he went, it was a rule that there should be no whispering among the scholars during school-hours, without leave from the teacher. Every one who broke the rule had a bad mark. Edward’s father had promised him a little wheelbarrow at the end of the school-term, if he had none.

The school-house stood in a beautiful place, near a fine grove where the birds sang and built their nests, and the lively little squirrels leaped and played. There was a rail-fence, behind the school-house, not far from the window where Edward sat.

One day, a bold and merry little red squirrel came running fast along the fence, and seating itself on the top-most rail, seemed to be looking into the school-house. It so happened that just then Edward raised his eyes from his book. He forgot himself and the teacher’s rule about whispering: [“]See, see that squirrel!” he exclaimed to John, the boy next to him.

“He wants to come to school,” said John, beginning to laugh.

“Oh, I forgot; we must not talk,” said Edward.

The squirrel with a bound came down from its high seat toward the window.

“He’s coming to school, sure enough,” said John; “we’ll have him in our class, won’t we?”

The teacher heard him, and asked if he was not breaking a rule.

“I wasn’t talking much,” replied John, bending his head low to his book and studying very fast with his lips.

“Still you were talking, and I must give you a bad mark,” said the teacher.

Edward thought of the wheelbarrow, but like a manly, honest boy, he spoke out, “I am sorry, sir; but I whispered without leave, too.”

“I did not see you,” said the teacher.

“I talked first; perhaps John wouldn’t have talked if it had not been for me. I forgot the rule a minute.”

“You must have a bad mark too, then,” said the teacher; “but you are an honest boy to own the truth and suffer disgrace, rather than sit still and act a lie. You did wrong to disobey, but I am very glad that you were honorable enough to confess it and dutiful enough to be sorry for it.”

Edward had never had a bad mark before, and felt the shame of it very much. He also thought he had lost the wheelbarrow, with which he had planned so many fine plays of drawing little loads of boards, peddlers’ wares, and garden produce. He felt as if he should cry, but he held back his tears, and studied away as well as he could with a heavy heart.

One morning after this, when Edward was the first one at school, he

p. 13

was surprised to see the teacher’s ink-stand upset, the ink spilled over the table, and dropping upon the floor.

When the teacher came and asked who did this mischief, no one at first answered; but on further inquiry, several said at once, “It was so when I came, and there was nobody here but Edward.”

“Did you do it, Edward?” said the teacher.

“No, sir.”

Somebody must have done it. All was right when I unlocked the school-house door and went for a walk. Who was the first at school this morning?”

“Edward, Edward,” was the answer.

Edward joined with the others, “There was no one here when I came, but the ink was spilled then.”

“It is very strange,” said the teacher, “but I believe you; I know you are an honest boy, for you confessed the whispering when no one accused you. We will wait, and I am sure the guilty one will be found out.”

The children looked around, wondering who the guilty one was, and thinking how badly he must feel. “I know it wasn’t Edward,” they said to each other, “for he tells when he does wrong, though nobody knows it. He wouldn’t keep still the other day to save his mark, and a beautiful wehelbarrow too, that his father was going to give him. Isn’t he a good boy? Who could have spilled the ink?” So they talked till school began, but found out nothing.

School was not over, however, before there was a giggling among the little ones nearest the table, and some of them pressed their hands tightly over their mouths to keep it in.

“Children,” said the teacher, in a tone of reproof, “what is the matter?”

Instead of a drawer, there was but a shelf in the table, and on the front edge of this sat a cunning little squirrel, peeping forth to see if he might safely venture from his hiding-place. At sight of the teacher, he drew back into his corner, and was caught by him.

“Here, children,” he said, as he drew him out, “here is the ink-spiller, a little rogue of a squirrel; his feet are dabbled with ink now; I thought we should find out who did the mischief. I felt certain it was not Edward. Here, Edward,” he added, turning to him, “he has cleared you, and you may have him.”

As Edward took him, he saw that he was the very one that he and John had seen looking in at the window. He put him in his dinner-basket till the noon recess, and then fed him and let him go, to run and frolic with his fellows as he pleased.

The squirrel did not forget his good fare, and all the summer frisked and played about the school-house. The children were careful not to alarm him, and he became almost tame. They called him “Squirrel Ned,” and sometimes “Squire Ned,” and many a time he made them think of the boy who would not act a lie, and whose word could be believed when every thing seemed to be against it.


“Breaking the Rules of School.”

Three brothers are confined in the Ohio Penitentiary, two for seven years, and one for three. They, with others, had formed a secret society for the purpose of carrying on a regular business in house-breaking, the plan of which was found in their pockets when they were arrested.

Now it is well for every boy to know what the apprenticeship of such a business was, and let him mark it seriously. They began law-breaking by violating and defying the just rules of school.

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