Marco liked his seat upon the outside of the stage-coach very much. He could see the whole country about him to great advantage. He was very much interested in the scenery, not having been accustomed to travel among forests and mountains. The driver was a rough young man,—for the boy who drove the coach up to the door was not the regular driver. He was not disposed to talk much, and his tone and manner, in what he did say, did not indicate a very gentle disposition. Marco, however, at last got a little acquainted with him, and finally proposed to the driver to let him drive.
“Nonsense,” said he, in reply, “you are not big enough to drive such a team as this.”
“Why, there was a boy, no bigger than I, that drove the horses up to the door when we started, this morning,” replied Marco.
“O yes,—Jerry,”—said the driver,—“but he’ll break his neck one of these days.”
“I didn’t see but that he drove very well,” said Marco.
The driver was silent.
“Come,” persisted Marco, “let me drive a little way, and I’ll do as much for you some day.”
“You little fool,” said the driver, “you never can do any thing for me. You are not big enough to be of any use at all.”
Marco thought of the fable of the mouse and the lion, but since his new companion was in such ill-humor, he thought he would say no more to him. A resentful reply to the epithet “little fool,” did in fact rise to his lips, but he suppressed it and said nothing.
It was fortunate for Marco that he did so. For whenever any person has said any thing harsh, unjust, or cruel, the most effectual reply is, generally, silence. It leaves the offender to think of what he has said, and conscience will often reprove him in silence, far more effectually than words could do it. This was the case in this instance. As they rode along in silence, the echo of the words “little fool,” and the tone in which he had uttered them, lingered upon the driver’s ear. He could not help thinking that he had been rather harsh with his little passenger. Presently he said,
“I don’t care though,—we are coming to a level piece of ground on ahead here a little way, and then I’ll see what you can make of teaming.”
Marco was quite pleased at this unexpected result, and after ten or fifteen minutes, they came to the level piece of road, and the driver put the reins into Marco’s hand. Marco had sometimes driven two horses, when riding out with his father in a barouche, up the Bloomingdale road in New York. He was therefore not entirely unaccustomed to the handling of reins; and he took them from the driver’s hand and imitated the manner of holding them which he had observed the driver himself to adopt, quite dexterously.