Did he give up his dreams of being a great man? Not a bit of it. He did not even cry or utter a complaint, but manfully resolved that he would do everything he could “to help father,” and then, “when winter comes,” he thought, “I shall be able to go to school again.” Bravely the little fellow toiled through the beautiful springtide, though his wistful glances were often turned in the direction of the schoolhouse. But he resolutely bent to his work and renewed his resolve that he would be educated. As spring deepened into summer, the work on the farm grew harder and harder, but Theodore rejoiced that the flight of each season brought winter nearer.
At length autumn had vanished; the fruits of the spring and summer’s toil had been gathered; the boy was free to go to his beloved studies again. And oh, how he reveled in the few books at his command in the village school! How eagerly he trudged across the fields, morning after morning, to the schoolhouse, where he always held first place in his class! Blustering winds and fierce snowstorms had no terrors for the ardent student. His only sorrow was that winter was all too short, and the days freighted with the happiness of regular study slipped all too quickly by. But the kind-hearted schoolmaster lent him books, so that, when spring came round again, and the boy had to go back to work, he could pore over them in his odd moments of relaxation. As he patiently plodded along, guiding the plow over the rough earth, he recited the lessons he had learned during the brief winter season, and after dinner, while the others rested awhile from their labors, Theodore eagerly turned the pages of one of his borrowed books, from which he drank in deep draughts of delight and knowledge. Early in the summer mornings, before the regular work began, and late in the evening, when the day’s tasks had all been done, he read and re-read his treasured volumes until he knew them from cover to cover.
Then he was confronted with a difficulty. He had begun to study Latin, but found it impossible to get along without a dictionary. “What shall I do?” he thought; “there is no one from whom I can borrow a Latin dictionary, and I cannot ask father to buy me one, because he cannot afford it. But I must have it.” That “must” settled the question. Three quarters of a century ago, book stores were few and books very costly. Boys and girls who have free access to libraries and reading rooms, and can buy the best works of great authors, sometimes for a few cents, can hardly imagine the difficulties which beset the little farmer boy in trying to get the book he wanted.
Did he get the dictionary? Oh, yes. You remember he had said, “I must.” After thinking and thinking how he could get the money to buy it, a bright idea flashed across his mind. The bushes in the fields about the farm seemed waiting for some one to pick the ripe whortle-berries. “Why,” thought he, “can’t I gather and sell enough to buy my dictionary?” The next morning, before any one else in the farmhouse was astir, Theodore was moving rapidly through the bushes, picking, picking, picking, with unwearied fingers, the shining berries, every one of which was of greater value in his eyes than a penny would be to some of you.