Several children put up their hands, and he asked each one to speak in turn. One said that if that man’s horse had had a docked tail, his master wouldn’t have been able to reach it, and would have perished. Another said that if the man hadn’t treated his horse kindly, he never would have come at his whistle, and stood over him to see what he could do to help him. A third child said that the people on the river weren’t as quick at hearing the voice of the man in trouble as the horse was.
When this talk was over, the president called for some stories of foreign animals.
Another boy came forward, made his bow, and said, in a short, abrupt voice, “My uncle’s name is Henry Worthington. He is an Englishman, and once he was a soldier in India. One day when he was hunting in the Punjab, he saw a mother monkey carrying a little dead baby monkey. Six months after, he was in the same jungle. Saw same monkey still carrying dead baby monkey, all shriveled up. Mother monkey loved her baby monkey, and wouldn’t give it up.”
The boy went to his seat, and the president, with a queer look in his face, said, “That’s a very good story, Ronald—if it is true.”
None of the children laughed, but Mrs. Wood’s face got like a red poppy, and Miss Laura bit her lip, and Mr. Maxwell buried his head in his arms, his whole frame shaking.
The boy who told the story looked very angry He jumped up again. “My uncle’s a true man, Phil. Dodge, and never told a lie in his life.”
The president remained standing, his face a deep scarlet, and a tall boy at the back of the room got up and said, “Mr. President, what would be impossible in this climate, might be possible in a hot country like India. Doesn’t heat sometimes draw up and preserve things?”
The president’s face cleared. “Thank you for the suggestion,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings; but you know there is a rule in the band that only true stories are to be told here. We have five more minutes for foreign stories. Has any one else one?”
* * * * *
STORIES ABOUT ANIMALS
A small girl, with twinkling eyes and a merry face, got up, just behind Miss Laura, and made her way to the front. “My dranfadder says,” she began, in a piping little voice, “dat when he was a little boy his fadder brought him a little monkey from de West Indies. De naughty boys in de village used to tease de little monkey, and he runned up a tree one day. Dey was drowing stones at him, and a man dat was paintin’ de house druv ’em away. De monkey runned down de tree, and shook hands wid de man. My dranfadder saw him,” she said, with a shake of her head at the president, as if she was afraid he would doubt her.
There was great laughing and clapping of hands when this little girl took her seat, and she hopped right up again and ran back. “Oh, I fordot,” she went on, in her squeaky, little voice, “dat my dranfadder says dat afterward de monkey upset de painter’s can of oil, and rolled in it, and den jumped down in my dranfadder’s flour barrel.”