This week, Joseph learns to be a help instead of a hindrance to one of his teachers; and Mrs. Calland shares a story with Joseph that has an immediate effect on him. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read them here.
A Dozen of Them
HE INCREASED HIS PEOPLE GREATLY; AND MADE THEM STRONGER THAN THEIR ENEMIES.
THE LORD IS THY KEEPER.
I WILL BE THY MOUTH, AND TEACH THEE WHAT THOU SHALT SAY.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER, IS SACRIFICED FOR US.
WHEN THOU PASSEST THROUGH THE WATERS I WILL BE WITH THEE; AND THROUGH THE RIVERS, THEY SHALL NOT OVERTHROW THEE.
Several of the boys were listening and laughing.
“And he drawls his words,” said Joseph, “and loses his place, and drops his lesson leaf; and never by any luck or chance asks a question that isn’t right before him on the leaf. Oh, he’s a rare teacher! I tell you what it is, when I get to be a man I won’t teach Sunday-school unless I have an idea of my own to give out now and then.”
Joseph’s sister Jean overheard this; it made her sad. She knew very well that Joseph’s teacher was one not calculated to win the respect of a bright boy like her brother. He was a good man, but he did not seem to know how to teach a class of wide-awake boys. She talked with Mrs. Calland about it, and wondered if anything could be done. This was the way Mrs. Calland came to have her talk with Joseph.
“How much time do you give to the preparation of your lesson, Joseph?”
“Why, there isn’t anything to prepare. He just asks the questions, and we read the answers, when we can find ’em.”
“I know; but suppose you should come into my history class with as little preparation for reciting as you give to the Bible lesson; what would be the result?”
Joseph shrugged his shoulders. “Mrs. Calland, if you should come into the history class and do nothing but put on your spectacles and read from the book, ‘What is the name of this lesson? What did Moses then say? What did Moses do next?’ I don’t know what kind of lessons we would get.”
“But I want you, for the moment, to forget about every person but Joseph Holbrook, and tell me what he does to make the lesson interesting.”
“I!” said Joseph, astonished. “Of course I can’t do anything.”
“I don’t quite understand why. You certainly asked some good questions in the history class yesterday, which helped the interest very much.”
“Oh, that’s different,” said Joseph.
“I know it is different; you were interested in history, and wanted to know more about it; and you were interested because you had carefully studied the lesson.”
“I should not know a thing to ask in Sunday-school,” declared Joseph stoutly, but Mrs. Calland only smiled on him and went away. It was because of that talk that he stopped, astonished, over the third verse, when he went to his little book to select his next one.
“I will be thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
“Queer!” said Joseph aloud. He meant, it seemed queer to him that those words should be there just then. Was it a possible thing that the Lord might mean him, Joseph Holbrook, to consider them as spoken to him, about the Sabbath-school lesson, for instance? Was there anything he could say which might help?
It was this thought which made him read the next lesson over carefully, that very night. There were some references in it which he did not understand, and he resolved the next day to look them up; this he did, and found himself growing interested.
He read the lesson over each day that week, and thought much about it, chiefly because he had become so interested that he could not help thinking about it.
On Sunday, as soon as the lesson was read, he asked, “How many Israelites do you suppose there were at that time?”
The teacher looked astonished, but pleased, and was ready with his opinion.
“Seems to me they had forgotten Joseph very soon,” said young Joseph again. “It wasn’t so very long after he died, was it?”
This started more talk. Then the treasure cities grew very interesting; Joseph had been studying in history that week, something which was connected with them, and the talk which was started was pleasant and profitable.
“Do you think it was a very wise plan which that old king had?” Joseph asked. Then the boys each described the plan which he would have tried if he had been king; and altogether, the superintendent’s bell rang before they were half through with the list of printed questions.
“Didn’t we have a good time today?” said one of the boys, passing out. And the teacher pushed his spectacles on his forehead and told Joseph it did his heart good to see how carefully the lesson had been prepared.
Joseph thought about it a good deal. He said nothing to the scholars at home. None of them were in his class; but he had a little talk with Jean, that night.
“I forgot my verse,” he said. “Didn’t think of it once till Sunday-school was out; but I asked lots of questions, and answered some, and had a real good time; I only did it because I was interested and wanted to. Do you think, Jean, that the Lord might have put into my mind some of the things to ask? Because the others seemed interested in them right away.”
“I haven’t a doubt of it,” said Jean heartily. “He helps us in all sorts of quiet little ways, as well as in great ones. Besides, He promised, you know. You don’t suppose Moses was the only one He was willing to tell what to say?”
Joseph had no answer ready. He sat silent and thoughtful for some time; it seemed a wonderful thought that the Lord could possibly care what questions he asked in Sunday-school. Yet the “verse” had been chosen by him for the month, and in school as well as out, he was bound to trust the Lord for words to speak.
“I know one thing,” he said suddenly, “I shall always study my Sunday-school lesson after this; it makes Mr. Stevens a much more interesting teacher!”
JESUS SAID UNTO THEM I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.
JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THEY HEART.
THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.
Rettie was seated on the bright rug in the schoolroom. It was Saturday, and it was raining. Joseph had been, for the last half-hour, entertaining Rettie, making a building for her out of spools and buttons, with scissors for the big gate; now she was absorbed in a lovely red paper heart which he had just cut out for her, and he had time to glance over his verses and decide which to take.
“Nobody ever does it; I never saw or heard of a fellow who did.”
Mrs. Calland came into the room at the moment.
“What is it, Joseph, that nobody ever does?” she asked.
Joseph looked up astonished, then laughed; he did not know he had spoken aloud.
“I was thinking of this verse,” he answered: “‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!‘ I don’t believe people ever do that.”
“I’m not sure; I heard of a little boy, once, who loved a very little girl-neighbor of his so much better than himself that he gave up a whole hour of his Saturday afternoon to her, because she could not go out in the rain.”
“That won’t do,” said Joseph, laughing again, though his face flushed and he looked pleased. “I didn’t want to go with the boys, and I had nothing in particular to do, and would rather amuse Rettie than not; so you see, I just pleased myself.”
“I see. Well, I knew a man once, who in a small matter carried out the rule. He was a poor man and he wanted a certain kind of easy chair for his daughter. A neighbor of his who had lost a great deal of money and was selling his goods, and going to move away, had a chair of the kind wanted, and offered it to this man for five dollars. It was worth a great deal more money than that, but its owner did not expect to get what it was worth, and needed money; so the poor man bought it for five dollars and was to bring the money for it in the afternoon and take it away. In his shop that morning, he heard a gentleman say he was going to offer ten dollars for that very chair. ‘Now,’ said the poor man to himself, here is something for me to think about; I can’t afford to pay ten dollars for the chair, but this man can, and is willing to do it, and its owner needs the money; to be sure I have bought the chair and can claim it if I choose, but then, if I were in his place, what would I want done?’ The end of the matter was, that he went at noon and told the man that he would not take the chair away, because he thought someone was coming to offer ten dollars for it. The other man appeared, just as he said he would, and the owner of the chair got his ten dollars. What do you think of it all?”
“Why,” said Joseph, “I think the first man had a right to the chair for five dollars.”
“I don’t doubt it; at least, what we call a legal right; but judged by the verse you have just repeated, I am not so sure of it.”
Then Mrs. Calland went away, leaving Joseph more thoughtful than little Rettie liked.
He said no more about the chair or the verse, neither did Mrs. Calland; but she smiled to herself when she heard Joseph’s voice in the hall that evening, talking to little Dick Wheeler:
“Here, little chap, is your knife. I really don’t think you ought to sell it for a quarter; it is all I can afford to pay, but if you really want to get rid of it, I know a boy who would pay as much as forty cents.”
“Why!” said little Dick, “I did sell it fast and true.”
“I know you did, but I’ve brought it back. You see, I’m sure you can get forty cents for it, and I’m sure it is worth it, and I’m sure if I were in your place I should want to have it; so here’s the knife, as good as it was day before yesterday, when I bought it.”
“Joseph has discovered that little Dick is his neighbor,” said Mrs. Calland softly. “I hope he doesn’t imagine that I knew anything about the knife. How strange it is that I should have happened to tell him that story! And how steadily the dear boy grows!”
We’re nearing the end of the story; only two more installments to go! Chapters 9 and 10 will post on February 7. See you then!