Darrel of the Blessed Isles by Irving Bacheller
XV. The Tinker at Linley School
Every seat was filled at the Linley School next morning. The tinker had come to see Trove and sat behind the big desk as work began.
"There are two kinds of people," said the teacher, after all were seated--"those that command--those that obey. No man is fit to command until he has learned to obey--he will not know how. The one great thing life has to teach you is--obey. There was a young bear once that was bound to go his own way. The old bear told him it wouldn't do to jump over a precipice, but, somehow, he couldn't believe it and jumped. 'Twas the last thing he ever did. It's often so with the young. Their own way is apt to be rather steep and to end suddenly. There are laws everywhere,--we couldn't live without them,--laws of nature, God, and man. Until we learn the law and how to obey it, we must go carefully and take the advice of older heads. We couldn't run a school without laws in it--laws that I must obey as well as you. I must teach, and you must learn. The two first laws of the school are teach and learn--you must help me to obey mine; I must help you to obey yours. And we'll have as much fun as possible, but we must obey."
Then Trove invited Darrel to address the school.
"Dear children," the tinker began with a smile, "I mind ye're all looking me in the face, an' I do greatly fear ye. I fear I may say something ye will remember, an' again I fear I may not. For when I speak to the young--ah! then it seems to me God listens. I heard the teacher speaking o' the law of obedience. Which o' ye can tell me who is the great master--the one ye must never disobey?"
"Yer father," said one of the boys.
"Nay, me bright lad, one o' these days ye may lose father an' mother an' teacher an' friend. Let me tell a story, an' then, mayhap, ye'll know the great master. Once upon a time there was a young cub who thought his life a burden because he had to mind his mother. By an' by a bullet killed her, an' he was left alone. He wandered away, not knowing' what to do, and came near the land o' men. Soon he met an old bear.
"'Foolish cub! Why go ye to the land o' men?' said the old bear. 'Thy legs are not as long as me tail. Go home an' obey thy mother.'
"'But I've none to obey,' said the young bear; an' before he could turn, a ball came whizzing over a dingle an' ripped into his ham. The old bear had scented danger an' was already out o' the way. The cub made off limping, an' none too quickly. They followed him all day, an' when night came he was the most weary an' bedraggled bear in the woods. But he stopped the blood an' went away on a dry track in the morning. He came to a patch o' huckleberries that day and began to help himself. Then quick an' hard he got a cuff on the head that tore off an ear and knocked him into the bushes. When he rose there stood the old bear. "'Ah, me young cub,' said he, 'ye'll have a master now.'
"'An' no more need o' him,' said the young bear, shaking his bloody head.
"'Nay, ye will prosper,' said the old bear. 'There are two ways o' learning,--by hearsay an' by knocks. Much ye may learn by knocks, but they are painful. There be two things every one has to learn,--respect for himself; respect for others. Ye'll know, hereafter, in the land o' men a bear has to keep his nose up an' his ears open--because men hurt. Ye'll know better, also, than to feed on the ground of another bear--because he hurts. Now, were I a cub an' had none to obey, I'd obey meself. Ye know what's right, do it; ye know what's wrong, do it not.'
"'One thing is sure,' said the young bear, as he limped away; 'if I live, there'll not be a bear in the woods that'll take any better care of himself.'
"Now the old bear knew what he was talking about. He was, I maintain, a wise an' remarkable bear. We learn to obey others, so that by an' by we may know how to obey ourselves. The great master of each man is himself. By words or by knocks ye will learn what is right, and ye must do it. Dear children, ye must soon be yer own masters. There be many cruel folk in the world, but ye have only one to fear--yerself. Ah! ye shall find him a hard man, for, if he be much offended, he will make ye drink o' the cup o' fire. Learn to obey yerselves, an' God help ye."
Thereafter, many began to look into their own hearts for that fearful master, and some discovered him.