Read FRANK HART of The Book of One Syllable , free online book, by Esther Bakewell, on

There is in this world one grief of a kind so sad that there are some who have not heard of it there are still more who have not felt it.

This is the grief of a young child when he feels that he who ought to be his best friend he who ought to love him more than all else love him he who ought to soothe all his pains, and be glad at all his joys, that he has no thought, no care, no love for him; and what is far worse than this, who chills the pure first thoughts of a young child’s mind, and turns such thoughts to pain.

Let all those who have not heard of grief so great as this, joy and be glad; but let them, while they dwell with thanks on their own lot, think and feel for the lot of poor Frank Hart.

Mr. Hart was a man who did not know the rule of self. He had not been taught this rule when he was young, and when he grew up to be a man, self had full rule over him.

His young ones, for he had more than Frank, felt this fault hard to bear. So great was their fear of Mr. Hart, that when he was in the room they did not dare to speak, or to laugh, or to move. Had they a book in hand, they did not dare to turn the leaves, for fear that they might be heard; nor could they leave the room, for their shoes might creak, or the door might make a noise.

Thus would these poor things sit, till (sound of joy!) the well known, and at times the long sought for sound, the push of Mr. Hart’s chair, told them he would soon be gone. Then the door would shut; and no shut of door could bring more ease and joy than the shut of that.

He was gone! and these young ones, freed from such chains as few so young have felt, would rise up from their chairs and jump, in proof that they were free; and though they might not speak a word, each knew what was felt by all.

Frank was not so old by two years as the one next to him in age: he was but eight years old, and he did not dare to tell how great was his fear of Mr. Hart.

Frank thought that to feel as he felt must be wrong, and yet he could not help it. He thought this when he saw all boys else so glad to see the friend who was to them all that Mr. Hart ought to have been to Frank.

Frank, when he saw the rush of joy, when he heard the loud laugh of glee with which these boys were wont to greet this friend of theirs, has felt sad.

The bell that calls a child, though from its room of play to the room down stairs, that bell which is a sound so full of joy, brought no joy to poor Frank. It was a sound that he could not bear to hear, for to him it rang a knell of pain. And who can blame Frank for this? who can when they know the scene to which such a bell would call him?

“Come in, Frank,” said Mr. Hart one day to him, “come in: here is an egg for you.”

Frank could not think that such a thing could be for him, yet he saw the egg, and his face told how glad he was.

“Thank you,” said Frank, as in great haste he took hold of the spoon.

He broke the shell with much care, and took it off bit by bit. He had just put his spoon so as to take up some of the nice white, when he found that quite as hard as he had found the shell. This was odd! but still he broke through that, when his spoon fell through it it was but an egg-shell full of air!

What was poor Frank’s look of woe! He gave one quick glance at Mr. Hart: such a glance it was! It said as plain as glance could say, “How can you do this to me?”

Yet the glance did not stop the loud laugh which burst forth; nor did that laugh cease till Frank had left the room, and then it rung in his ears for a long time.

Such a child as Frank was feels a thing like this much more than he feels pain that he is made to feel when he has done wrong. Such a child as Frank was knows when he has done wrong, and when he is made to feel pain for it, he thinks it is pain he ought to feel, to make him a good boy.

A child like Frank soon finds out if he is made to feel pain for his own good, or if he is made to feel it from some cross thought that may pass through the mind of some one who may not care for his good at all.

Thus Frank, who was a boy who thought a great deal, as young as he was, knew well when it was right he should be made to feel pain, and when it was done for no fault of his own.

Poor Frank! he has thought this last was the case when he has been told by Mr. Hart to snuff the light on his desk, and he has put it out.

Poor Frank! he has now and then made all dark; for when he has put out this desk light, there has been no light but the fire light to guide Mr. Hart’s hand to Frank’s ear. And, oh! that poor ear, how it did smart, and how loud the noise of the box did sound!

At these times Frank said not a word, nor did he shrink from the blow; but Frank thought, and his mind grew more and more full of thought.

But what most hurt Frank was, that things were done and said to him just to make him say what was queer, and then this queer thing would be told by Mr. Hart to his friends, and they would laugh at Frank.

Now Frank did not like this at all; and one night, when he had still on his mind some thing that he had said, which Mr. Hart had told, Mr. Hart all at once said to him, “Frank, wish a wish.”

“I can’t wish,” said Frank.

“But you must wish, and you shall,” said Mr. Hart.

Still Frank spoke not.

“What would you most wish to have?” said Mr. Hart.

“I don’t know,” said Frank.

“But you shall know I’ll make you know you shall not go to bed till you do know, so speak at once.”

Still Frank said not a word.

“Speak, Frank,” once more said Mr. Hart: “speak, Frank, and say what you would the most wish to have, if you could have what you wish.”

“I don’t know,” once more said Frank.

“You don’t know! but I say you shall know you must know I’ll make you know, I tell you. Go! you shall be shut up in that dark room! Go! there you shall stay, if it be all night; go!”

Frank said not a word, but did not move.

“Do you hear me?” said Mr. Hart.

Still Frank did not move.

Mr. Hart at length took him by the hand, and led him to the dark room.

This room was next to the one where they were. Mr. Hart took Frank by force, put him in, and shut the door.

And now there was poor Frank all in the dark.

The first sounds that came forth were “Oh! oh! oh!” and then a burst of tears. Soon all was still, and then there were more sobs and tears.

“Wish a wish, I tell you,” once more said Mr. Hart. “Wish a wish, or you shall stay where you are all night.”

“Stay! stay! stay!” said Frank. “Don’t go, don’t go!”

And now such a noise did he make at the door with his feet and hands that his voice could not well be heard; but through it all the scream of “Don’t go, don’t go!” went on.

“Good night,” said Mr. Hart, when the noise was for a short time still, “good night, we all go, and we leave you there.”

“Stay! oh, stay!” said Frank, in tones of woe.

“Wish a wish,” said Mr. Hart, “or we are all gone.”

“Oh!” said Frank, “I do wish I were in bed.”

There was a loud laugh.

“You have now told your wish,” said Mr. Hart, “and you may go to bed.”

Frank did not stay to be told twice.