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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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By Frank R. Stockton

"Oh, Andy!" said little Jenny Murdock, "I'm so glad you came

along this way. I can't get over."

"Can't get over?" said Andrew. "Why what's the matter?"

"The bridge is gone," said Jenny. "When I came across after

breakfast it was there, and now it's over on the other side, and

how can I get back home?"

"Why, so it is," said Andrew. "It was all right when I came over

a little while ago, but old Donald pulls it on the other side

every morning after he has driven his cows across, and I don't

think he has any right to do it. I suppose he thinks the bridge

was made for him and his cows."

"Now I must go down to the big bridge, Andy, and I want you to go

with me. I'm afraid to go through all those dark woods by

myself," said Jenny.

"But I can't go, Jenny," said Andrew, "it's nearly school time now."

Andrew was a Scotch boy, and a fine fellow. He was next to the

head of his school, and he was as good at play as he was at his book.

Jenny Murdock, his most particular friend, was a little girl who

lived very near Andrew's home. She had no brothers or sisters,

but Andrew had always been as good as a brother to her; and,

therefore, when she stood by the water's edge that morning, just

ready to burst into tears, she thought all her troubles over when

she saw Andrew coming along the road.

He had always helped her out of her troubles before, and she saw

no reason why he should not do so now. She had crossed the creek

in search of wild flowers, and when she wished to return had

found the bridge removed, as Andrew supposed, by old Donald

McKenzie, who pastured his cows on this side of the creek.

This stream was not very wide, nor very deep at its edges, but in

the center it was four or five feet deep; and in the spring the

water ran very swiftly, so that wading across it, either by

cattle or men, was quite a difficult undertaking. As for Jenny,

she could not get across at all without a bridge, and there was

none nearer than the wagon bridge, a mile and a half below.

"You will go with me, Andy, won't you?" said the little girl.

"And be late to school?" said he. "I have not been late yet, you know, Jenny."

"Perhaps Dominie Black will think you have been sick or had to

mind the cows," said Jenny.

"He won't think so unless I tell him," said Andrew, "and you know

I won't do that."

"If we were to run all the way, would you be too late?" said Jenny.

"If we were to run all the way? I should not get to school till

after copy time. I expect every minute to hear the school bell

ring," said Andrew.

"But what can I do, then?" said poor little Jenny. "I can't wait

here till school's out, and I don't want to go up to the

schoolhouse, for all the boys to laugh at me."

"No," said Andrew, reflecting very seriously, "I must take you

home some way or other. It won't do to leave you here, and, no

matter where you might stay, your mother would be very much

troubled about you."

"Yes," said Jenny, "she would think I was drowned."

Time pressed, and Jenny's countenance became more and more

overcast, but Andrew could think of no way in which he could take

the little girl home without being late and losing his standing

in the school.

It was impossible to get her across the stream at any place

nearer than the "big bridge"; he would not take her that way, and

make up a false story to account for his lateness at school, and

he could not leave her alone or take her with him.

What was to be done? While several absurd and impracticable plans

were passing through his brain, the school bell began to ring,

and he must start immediately to reach the schoolhouse in time.

And now his anxiety and perplexity became more intense than ever;

and Jenny, looking up into his troubled countenance, began to cry.

Andrew, who had never before failed to be at the school door

before the first tap of the bell, began to despair. Was there

nothing to be done?

Yes! a happy thought passed through his mind. How strange that he

should not have thought of it before! He would ask Dominie Black

to let him take Jennie home. What could be more sensible and

straightforward than such a plan?

Of course, the good old schoolmaster gave Andrew the desired

permission, and everything ended happily. But the best thing

about the whole affair was the lesson that the young Scotch boy

learned that day.

The lesson was this: when we are puzzling our brains with plans

to help ourselves out of trouble, let us always stop a moment in

our planning, and try to think if there is not some simple way

out of the difficulty, which shall be in every respect perfectly

right. If we do this, we shall probably find a way more easy and

satisfactory than any which we can devise.


Particular, not ordinary, worthy of special attention, chief.

Dominie, the Scotch name for schoolmaster.

Reflecting, thinking earnestly.

Overcast, covered with gloom.

Account, to state the reasons.

Impracticable, not possible.

Anxiety, care, trouble of mind.

Devise, plan, contrive.


Why could not Jenny cross the stream?

Would it have been right for Andrew to have told an untruth even to help Jenny out of trouble?

What did he finally do?

What does this lesson teach us to do in case of trouble?



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