Roger's Lesson by Unknown

"Hurrah! hurrah! Such a splendid morning for skating; clear as jelly and as cold as ice cream. Come ahead, boys; there's no telling how long this weather will last."

So said Roger to his two friends, whom he met on his way to the park. His eyes sparkled, his cheeks were almost as bright as the scarlet muffler he wore around his neck, and the dangling skates told for themselves the expedition upon which he was bound. The other boys readily agreed to join him, and after running home for their skates, the party started off in such high spirits that the conductor of the car which they entered, begged them to be a little more quiet.

"Not quite so noisy, please, young gentlemen," he said, as they paid their fare.

"Pshaw!" said Roger, while Bob made a face when his back was turned to them, giving Frank an opportunity of noticing the large patch on his overcoat. He made some funny speech about it, at which the others laughed heartily. It usually does boys good to laugh, unless the laugh be at the expense of some one else. A good-natured laugh is good for the heart.

After a while the car stopped for another passenger; the conductor assisted the person in getting on, and Roger, thinking more time was taken than usual, called out:—

"Hurry up, hurry up—no time to lose!"

The new-comer was a boy about his own age, but sadly deformed; he was a hunchback, and had a pale, delicate face, which spoke of sorrow and painful suffering.

"Now do move up," said the conductor, as the boys sat still, not offering to make room; but when he spoke, they all crowded together, giving much more room than was necessary,—the three together trying to occupy the space that one would comfortably fill. They continued talking and joking noisily, until the car stopped at the entrance of the park.

Bob and Frank pushed out ahead of all the other passengers. Roger was pushing out after them when the conductor laid his hand on his shoulder.

"Don't crowd, don't crowd; plenty of time, young man."

This expostulation came too late, for Roger in his impatience to get out, unheeding of what he was doing, caught one of his skates in the scarf of the crippled boy, who had been sitting next to him. He gave his skate strap a rude pull, knocking the boy rather roughly, and stepping on a lady's toes.

[Illustration: "<i>It wasn't my fault, was it</i>?"]

"Bother take it!" he exclaimed impatiently, and giving the scarf another jerk, ruder than before, he succeeded in disentangling it; then he rushed out, hurried over to the boys who awaited him on the pavement, where they stood stamping their feet and whistling. Roger made no reply to the crippled boy, who said to him gently:—

"It wasn't my fault, was it?"

"That hunchback caught his scarf in my skate. I thought it never would come out," he exclaimed. "It's kept me all this time!"

"Hush, Roger," interrupted Frank in a low tone of voice.

The boy was just behind them; he had evidently heard what had been said, for his pale face turned scarlet, and lingering behind to see which path the boys intended taking, he walked off in the opposite direction, and they soon lost sight of him.

Roger was hasty and impulsive, but his nature was kindly, after all; and when his skates were fairly on, the ice tried, and the first excitement of the pleasure over, he thought of his unfeeling speech, and the pale, sad face of the boy rose before him.

"Was it my fault?" The question rang in his ears. Was it the boy's fault that his legs were crooked, and his back misshapen and awkward? Was it his fault that he must go through life, receiving pity or contempt from his more fortunate fellow-creatures, whose limbs were better formed than his own?

The more Roger thought, the ruder his treatment of the poor lad now seemed, and putting himself in the boy's place, he felt that such words would have cut him to the quick.

"I say," said Bob, who had been cutting his initials on a smooth, glassy spot of ice: "I say, Roger, what makes you so glum? Why, I declare, there's the little hunchback sitting over there on the bank, looking at the skaters."

Roger looked in that direction, and saw him sitting alone, his only enjoyment consisting in seeing without at all engaging in the pleasure of others.

"What can a poor fellow like that do with himself I wonder?" added Bob. "I don't suppose he can skate or do anything else without making a show of himself."

"That's so," said Roger thoughtfully, wondering how he could make up for his rudeness, or take back his own words. He concluded to let it all pass for this time. In future he would be more careful, and less hasty in speaking; for Roger did not have sufficient manliness to go over to where the boy was sitting, and say frankly; "I beg your pardon for my rudeness."

The boys proposed a game of tag. Roger was a splendid skater; he engaged in the game with great zest: his spirits rose, and the crippled boy and the reproaches of his conscience passed entirely out of his mind as he skated on, knowing that he could keep his balance as well and strike out, perhaps, better than any fellow on the pond.

The swiftest and strongest, however, are not always the most successful, and as he swooped around, curving in very near the shore, a strap gave way, and before Roger could help himself, it tripped him, and he sprawled at full length on the ice.

The boys shouted; some laughed, but a fall is such a common occurrence that no one was very much concerned until Roger attempted to spring up again, to show them all that he didn't mind it in the least,—he would be all right again in a minute. Then he tried to stand; but when an awful pain shot up from his ankle, then he realized that it was quite impossible to stand.

They ran to his assistance, but before they reached him, a soft hand was held out to him, and a gentle voice asked:

"Have you hurt yourself badly?" Roger saw the deformed boy standing by his side, and then remembered that he had seen him sitting near by on the bank.

[Illustration: "<i>The deformed boy knelt on the ice</i>."]

"I think I must have sprained my ankle," he replied.

The deformed boy knelt on the ice, and while the others clustered around, asking questions and offering suggestions, he quietly unbuckled his skates for him.

"I'll have to get home, I suppose," said Roger faintly; "but, boys, don't let this spoil your fun—don't come with me."

"May I go with you?" said the deformed boy. "I am not going to stay here any longer."

Roger thanked him, and a policeman coming up at that moment to inquire about the accident, a carriage was procured, Roger was put in, the deformed boy followed, and Roger was driven home.

"My fun is spoiled for this winter," he said, with a moan. "I know a fellow who sprained his ankle last year, and the doctor says perhaps he will never be able to skate again. What an unlucky thing for me!—it wasn't my fault either."

"No," added the deformed boy gently. "It was not your fault; and it was not my fault that my nurse let me fall when I was a baby and injured my back. I sometimes think it would have been better if she had killed me outright, though strong and well-formed people think it wicked for me to wish that."

The color which had left Roger's pale cheeks from his pain, rushed back for a moment, as he held out his hand and said:—

"I was a brute to you in the car this morning, but I didn't think what I was doing. Will you excuse me?"

"I know you didn't. Please don't say anything more about it. It is hard to pity the suffering of others unless we have felt pain ourselves."

Roger's sprain prevented him from skating again that season, and taught him also a lesson which let us hope he will remember all his lifetime.