Only This Once by Unknown
"I'll be in again very soon, mother; I am only going 'round the corner
to see the new billiard rooms;" and, cap in hand, Harry was closing the
parlor door when his mother called him back.
"I cannot consent to your going there, my dear," she said; "you must
know that both your father and myself disapprove of all such places."
"But I don't intend to play, mother; only to look on; the boys say the
tables are splendid; and besides, what could I tell Jim Ward after
promising to go with him? He is waiting outside for me. Please say 'yes'
only this once."
"Tell Jim that we rather you would remain at home; and ask him to walk
in and spend the evening," said Harry's father, as he looked up from the
"Oh, I know he'll not do that!" and Harry stood turning the door handle,
till, finding that his parents did not intend to say anything more, he
walked slowly to the front step.
"Why don't you hurry along," called Jim, "and not keep a fellow standing
all night in the cold?"
"I am not going. Won't you come in?" said Harry.
"Not going! Your mother surely doesn't object to your looking at a
"She would prefer I should not go," said Harry, and Jim's only reply was
a significant whistle, as he walked off.
"He'll be sure to tell all the boys!" said Harry, half aloud, as he shut
the front door with rather more force than was necessary. "I don't see
what does make father and mother so particular." Then, entering the
parlor, he took the first book that came to hand from the table, and,
taking a seat very far from the light, looked exceedingly unamiable.
His father laid aside the paper, and without seeming to notice Harry's
mood, said pleasantly, "I wonder if my son feels himself too old for a
story; if not I have one to tell him which might well be named, 'Only
This Once.'" The book was returned to the table; but Harry still kept
thinking of what the boys would say when Jim told an exaggerated story,
and his countenance remained unchanged.
"When I was about your age, Harry," began his father, "we lived next
door to Mr. Allen, a very wealthy gentleman, who had one son. As Frank
was a good-natured, merry boy, and had his two beautiful ponies, several
dogs, and a large playground, he soon made friends.
"Many an afternoon did we spend together, riding the ponies, or playing
ball on the playground, and one summer afternoon in particular, I never
expect to forget, for it seems to me now, looking back upon it, as the
turning point of Frank's life; but we little thought of such a thing at
"It was a very warm afternoon; and, becoming tired of playing ball, we
had stopped to rest on the piazza, when Frank proposed that we should
take the ponies to a plank road a few miles from the house, and race
them. I was certain that his father would disapprove of this, and,
besides, it would have been most cruel work on such a warm afternoon, so
I tried to make Frank think of something else he would like to do
instead; but all in vain.
"'I think you might go, Charlie,' he said. 'What's the harm of doing it;
only this once? I just want to see if either of my ponies is likely to
be a fast trotter.'
"For one moment I hesitated, but in the next came the thought of my
father's displeasure, and I shook my head.
"'Very well, just as you please, Mr. Good Boy! I know plenty who will be
glad of the chance to ride Jet;' and so saying he walked away.
"Frank did find a boy who was delighted to go with him, and enjoyed the
race so much that, notwithstanding his father's reprimand, he managed to
pursue the same sport more times than 'only that once.'
"As soon as the summer was ended, Mr. Allen went to Europe for his
health, and I did not see his son again for three years, till I left the
country and entered the same college with him.
"Frank began studying very earnestly; but before the first year was
ended, the earnestness had passed away. Friends would induce him to
spend his evenings at their rooms, or at some public place of amusement,
and each time Frank would try to satisfy his conscience with, 'It will
be only this once.'
"Thus by degrees, his lessons were neglected, and as study became
irksome, his love for excitement and gaiety increased, till one day I
overheard a gentleman, who knew him well, remark that he feared Frank's
'only this once' would prove his ruin.
"But a few years before, Frank would have been shocked with the thought
of spending the afternoons in racing, and evenings in billiard saloons.
He had not at first really intended to visit these places more than
'once,' 'just to see for myself;' but there are very few who ever stop
in the course of wrong doing at 'only this once.'
"At length his father died. When the sad tidings reached the son, he
seemed more thoughtful for a time; but in an hour of temptation he
yielded. Before long his old companions surrounded him again, and of
them he soon learned how to spend the large fortune left him by his
father, in a most reckless manner.
"In vain his true friends tried to check him in his wild career; and,
five years ago, Harry, my poor friend Frank died a drunkard."
"Oh, father, how dreadful!" and Harry shuddered.
"Yes, it is dreadful, my son; but there are countless untold stories as
dreadful as this one. If we were to visit a prison, and ask the wretched
inmates how it was that they were first led into crime, we should find
that 'only this once' brought most of them there. One took something
which did not belong to him, never intending to do it more than that
once; but the crime soon grew into a habit. Another was once tempted to
gamble, and only that one game was the foundation of all his crimes.
Another fully intended to stop with the first glass; but instead, became
a reckless drunkard.
"Learn, my son, to dread those three little words, and when tempted to
use them, think of all they may lead to, and ask for strength to resist
the temptation; and, Harry, do you wonder now at our refusing to allow
you to visit the billiard room even once?"
"No, father; I see now that you were right, and I was wrong in supposing
that it could not possibly do me any harm to go only this once; and if
Jim does tell the boys some silly story to make them laugh at me, I
can tell them about Frank Allen, and that will soon sober them."
My dear boys, do you flatter yourself that it is a trifling thing to do
wrong, "only this once?" If so, stop and consider, how often not only
the young but those of mature years yield to this deceptive and
alluring thought and take the first steps in a career of sin, when,
could they but see the end of the path which they are so thoughtlessly
entering, they would shudder with horror. They do not realize that sin
once indulged in hardens the heart, and that one step in the downward
path leads to the broad road.
How many parents yield to the pleadings of their children to be indulged
"this once," who find that to deny after once being indulged, costs a
greater effort than to have stood with firmness to conviction of
conscience and true principle.