If You Are Only Honest by Unknown

It is not best to try to still the voice of conscience by repeating the popular maxim, "If you are only honest, that is all."

The mill was doing a great business that day, when Jack and David Jamison rode up with their bag of corn to be ground. They lived on a small farm five miles off the main road, and were not sorry at the prospect of waiting several hours for their grist.

This would give them a chance of seeing something of the liveliness and bustle of "The Corner," as that part of the village was called, where stood the tavern, the store, and the mill.

Jack and David had plenty of time, and they ran about a great deal, here and there, and saw and heard many things.

At last, a heavy shower coming on, they went back to the mill to eat their lunch, and to inquire when their turn would come.

There they found the miller's son and the son of the squire engaged in earnest conversation, which soon took Jack's attention. The miller's son was urging upon the squire's son the importance of a correct understanding of the Bible. But the squire's son only insisted that "It doesn't matter what a man believes, if he is only sincere."

Jack was a vain, foolish fellow, and felt very much pleased with the rattling off-hand speech of the squire's son, and he only wished that he could talk as well; then he would put his old grandfather to confusion—indeed he would.

"It is no matter what a man believes, provided he is sincere," muttered Jack, bracing his conscience against the godly conversation of his relatives; "I'll fix 'em now," he said to himself, with a decided nod of the head.

Late in the afternoon the boys' grist was ready; then the old horse was brought out of the shed, the bag of meal placed across her back, and Jack and David both mounted; boys, horse, and bag, all homeward bound.

"You have a longer ride ahead than I wish you had, boys," said the miller, casting his eyes toward a dark cloud which was rising and darkening the western sky; "there's plenty of water up there for my mill."

But they set off briskly, and were soon lost to sight among the windings of the forest road. But the gloom gathered faster than the horse trotted, so that it was quite dark when they reached a fork in the road where it might make considerable difference which road they took. One was the main road; this way there was a good bridge over Bounding Brook, a mountain stream which was often dangerously swollen by the spring rains. It was the safest, though the longest way home.

The other was a wood path through the pines, which was the one often taken by farmers living east of the town, to shorten the distance to The Corner. In this road, Bounding Brook was crossed by fording.

"Father told us to be sure to take the traveled road if it was late," said David.

"Going to," asserted Jack, as he drew rein for a moment, at the division of the roads.

But really, Jack was confused; the windings of the road, with nothing but woods on each side, and, of course, no distinct landmarks to direct them, together with the gloom of the night and their small acquaintance with the roads, puzzled the boys not a little. But Jack, being the older, wished to impress his brother with a sense of his superior wisdom, and would not admit his confusion.

Quickly deciding which road he would take, he whipped up, exclaiming conclusively, "it's all right!"

"Are you sure?" asked David.

"Certainly; I cannot be mistaken."

"I don't know," said David. "Let me jump off and run to that light yonder; there must be a cabin there."

"Oh, we can't stop for all that," said Jack. "I honestly believe this is the traveled road, David; can't you trust me?"

"But your honestly believing it, doesn't make it so," protested David.

"I haven't a doubt of it, Dave, you be still," cried Jack angrily.

"I think we ought to ask, so as to be sure," persisted David.

But Jack whipped up and poor David's words went to the winds, as gust after gust of the coming shower roared through the forest, and Jack urged the horse to all the speed which her heavy load would allow.

The self-willed lad was well pleased with his hasty decision, and the farther he went, the more and more convinced was he that it was the right way.

Presently the roaring of Bounding Brook arose above the noise of the tempest.

"We shall be over the bridge in a jiffy," cried Jack, "and then, old fellow, what will you say?"

"I'd like to feel myself safely over," muttered David, when, before the other could reply, Jack, David, horse, and meal went floundering into the raging waters of the swollen stream. It was pitch dark; the storm was on them, and they were miles from human help.

The first few moments of horrible suspense can scarcely be expressed. Jack at last found himself anchored on a log of drift-wood, the icy waters breaking over him, and the bridle still fast in his hand.

"David!" he shouted at the top of his voice, "David!"

"The Lord have mercy!" cried David, "I'm somewhere."

[Illustration: "<i>In the raging waters of the swollen stream</i>."]

The meal? ah, that was making a pudding in some wild eddy of the Bounding Brook far below.

"No matter what a man believes, provided he's sincere," cried poor Jack, thoroughly drenched and humbled. "It's the biggest lie the devil ever got up."

"It does matter. Being right is the main thing. Sincerity doesn't save a fellow from the tremendous consequences of being wrong. It can't get him out of trouble. He's obliged to endure it, no matter how sincere he had been.

"Didn't I honestly believe I was on the right road, when I was like going to perdition all the time?"

The experience of that night completely and forever cured poor Jack of a common error which has brought many a poor soul into the wild surges of unbelief and irreligion.