Then Trove invited Darrel to address the school.
“Dear children,” the tinker began with a smile, “I mind ye’re all looking me in the face, an’ I do greatly fear ye. I fear I may say something ye will remember, an’ again I fear I may not. For when I speak to the young—ah! then it seems to me God listens. I heard the teacher speaking o’ the law of obedience. Which o’ ye can tell me who is the great master—the one ye must never disobey?”
“Yer father,” said one of the boys.
“Nay, me bright lad, one o’ these days ye may lose father an’ mother an’ teacher an’ friend. Let me tell a story, an’ then, mayhap, ye’ll know the great master. Once upon a time there was a young cub who thought his life a burden because he had to mind his mother. By an’ by a bullet killed her, an’ he was left alone. He wandered away, not knowing’ what to do, and came near the land o’ men. Soon he met an old bear.
“‘Foolish cub! Why go ye to the land o’ men?’ said the old bear. ‘Thy legs are not as long as me tail. Go home an’ obey thy mother.’
“‘But I’ve none to obey,’ said the young bear; an’ before he could turn, a ball came whizzing over a dingle an’ ripped into his ham. The old bear had scented danger an’ was already out o’ the way. The cub made off limping, an’ none too quickly. They followed him all day, an’ when night came he was the most weary an’ bedraggled bear in the woods. But he stopped the blood an’ went away on a dry track in the morning. He came to a patch o’ huckleberries that day and began to help himself. Then quick an’ hard he got a cuff on the head that tore off an ear and knocked him into the bushes. When he rose there stood the old bear. “‘Ah, me young cub,’ said he, ‘ye’ll have a master now.’
“‘An’ no more need o’ him,’ said the young bear, shaking his bloody head.
“‘Nay, ye will prosper,’ said the old bear. ‘There are two ways o’ learning,—by hearsay an’ by knocks. Much ye may learn by knocks, but they are painful. There be two things every one has to learn,—respect for himself; respect for others. Ye’ll know, hereafter, in the land o’ men a bear has to keep his nose up an’ his ears open—because men hurt. Ye’ll know better, also, than to feed on the ground of another bear—because he hurts. Now, were I a cub an’ had none to obey, I’d obey meself. Ye know what’s right, do it; ye know what’s wrong, do it not.’
“‘One thing is sure,’ said the young bear, as he limped away; ’if I live, there’ll not be a bear in the woods that’ll take any better care of himself.’