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| Home | Reading Room The New McGuffey Fourth Reader

The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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"Please, mother, do sit down and let me try my hand," said Fred

Liscom, a bright active boy, twelve years old. Mrs. Liscom,

looking pale and worn, was moving languidly about, trying to

clear away the breakfast she had scarcely tasted.

She smiled, and said, "You, Fred, you wash dishes?" "Yes, indeed,

mother," answered Fred; "I should be a poor scholar if I

couldn't, when I've seen you do it so many times. Just try me."

A look of relief came over his mother's face as she seated

herself in her low rocking-chair. Fred washed the dishes and put

them in the closet. He swept the kitchen, brought up the potatoes

from the cellar for the dinner and washed them, and then set out

for school.

Fred's father was away from home, and as there was some cold meat

in the pantry, Mrs. Liscom found it an easy task to prepare

dinner. Fred hurried home from school, set the table, and again

washed the dishes.

He kept on in this way for two or three days, till his mother was

able to resume her usual work, and he felt amply rewarded when

the doctor, who happened in one day, said, "Well, madam, it's my

opinion that you would have been very sick if you had not kept quiet."

The doctor did not know how the "quiet" had been secured, nor how

the boy's heart bounded at his words. Fred had given up a great

deal of what boys hold dear, for the purpose of helping his

mother, coasting and skating being just at this time in perfection.

Besides this, his temper and his patience had been severely.

tried. He had been in the habit of going early to school, and

staying to play after it was dismissed.

The boys missed him, and their curiosity was excited when he

would give no other reason for not coming to school earlier, or

staying after school, than that he was "wanted at home."

"I'll tell you," said Tom Barton, "I'll find him out, boys--see

if I don't!"

So, one morning on his way to school, he called for Fred. As he

went around to the side door he walked lightly. and somewhat

nearer the kitchen window than was absolutely needful. Looking

in, he saw Fred standing at the table with a dishcloth in his hand.

Of course he reported this at school, and various were the

greetings poor Fred received at recess. "Well, you're a brave one

to stay at home washing dishes!" "Girl boy!" "Pretty Bessie!"

"Lost your apron, haven't you, Polly!"

Fred was not wanting either in spirit or in courage, and he was

strongly tempted to resent these insults, and to fight some of

his tormentors. But his consciousness of right and his love for

his mother helped him.

While he was struggling for self mastery, his teacher appeared at

the door of the schoolhouse. Fred caught his eye, and it seemed

to look, if it did not say, "Don't give up! Be really brave!" He

knew the teacher had heard the insulting taunts of his

thoughtless schoolmates.

The boys received notice during the day that Fred must not be

taunted or teased in any manner. They knew that the teacher meant

what he said; and so the brave little boy had no further trouble.


"Fire! fire! " The cry crept out on the still night air, and the

fire bells began to mug. Fred was wakened by the alarm and the

red light streaming into his room. He dressed himself very

quickly, and then tapped at the door of his mother's bedroom.

"It is Mr. Barton's house, mother. Do let me go," he said in

eager, excited tones. Mrs. Liscom thought a moment. He was young,

but she could trust him, and she knew how much his heart was in

the request.

"Yes, you may go," she answered; "but be careful, my boy. If you

can help, do so; but do nothing rashly." Fred promised to follow

her advice, and hurried to the fire.

Mr. and Mrs. Barton were not at home. The house had been left in

charge of the servants. The fire spread with fearful speed, for

there was a high wind, and it was found impossible to save the

house. The servants ran about screaming and lamenting, but doing

nothing to any purpose.

Fred found Tom outside, in safety. "Where is Katy?" he asked.

Tom, trembling with terror, seemed to have had no thought but of

his own escape. He said, "Katy is in the house!" "In what room?"

asked Fred. "In that one," answered Tom, pointing to a window in

the upper story.

It was no time for words, but for instant, vigorous action. The

staircase was already on fire; there was but one way to reach

Katy, and that full of danger. The second floor might fall at any

moment, and Fred knew it. But he trusted in an arm stronger than

his own, and silently sought help and guidance.

A ladder was quickly brought, and placed against the house. Fred

mounted it, followed by the hired man, dashed in the sash of the

window, and pushed his way into the room where the poor child lay

nearly suffocated with smoke.

He roused her with some difficulty, carried her to the window,

and placed her upon the sill. She was instantly grasped by strong

arms, and carried down the ladder, Fred following as fast as

possible. They had scarcely reached the ground before a crash of

falling timbers told them that they had barely escaped with their lives.

Tom Barton never forgot the lesson of that night; and he came to

believe, and to act upon the belief, in after years, that true

manliness is in harmony with gentleness, kindness, and self-denial.


Languidly, feebly.

Amply, fully.

Opinion, judgment, belief.

Absolutely, wholly, entirely.

Resent, to consider as an injury.

Consciousness, inward feeling, knowledge of what passes in one's own mind.



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