Read CHAPTER VI of Master Sunshine, free online book, by Mrs. C. F. Fraser, on ReadCentral.com.

Kind deeds

On Friday afternoons Mr. Sinclair usually gave his pupils a very pleasant hour just before closing. Of late he had been reading aloud “Beautiful Joe,” and all had been interested in the story of the intelligent dog.

Tommy Dane listened intently to every word, and was quick to put in practice every kind suggestion; while Master Sunshine smiled his approval of the familiar tale, for his own copy of the book was much thumbed from constant reading. He felt very happy to think that so many boys who had pets were learning how to take care of them properly. But he was quite as surprised as the rest of the lads when, at the close of the reading that week, Mr. Sinclair leaned over his desk and said, “Boys, I am not going to read to you next Friday afternoon.”

A little murmur of disappointment ran around the room. “Instead,” he continued, smiling down at their troubled faces, “I want you to entertain me. The book we have been reading teaches us kindness to animals, and I should like to hear from each one of you of some thoughtful act that has made the lives of the dependent creatures about you a little happier.”

“I know plenty of people who drive their horses too hard, and half starve them into the bargain,” interrupted one of the boys.

Mr. Sinclair raised his hand. “I am sorry to say that I know of a few such people myself,” he answered; “but we are not talking about them now. There are many people who are kind to their four-legged servants and pets, and I want you to learn by their example. Each one is to tell in his own words of some kind deed that he has a personal knowledge of, and after that we will see what is to be done.”

You can imagine how busy the boys were all that week. They asked questions by the thousands of all their friends. They prowled about barns and henneries and rabbit hutches until the people in the village woke up to the idea that the boys of Hill-top school were taking a lively interest in the welfare of all animals.

“Give my horses an extra ration of oats and rub them down well, Jacob,” said Banker Patterson, with a twinkle in his eye. “I wouldn’t like to be reported for cruelty to animals, and I notice that young Tommy Dane and that yellow-headed Norton are eying my turnout very curiously.” Jacob chuckled over the joke, for he well knew that the banker’s horses were the best attended to in the village.

“They say,” said Jacob, “that Master Sunshine, as they call that Norton boy, is at the bottom of the whole business;” and thereupon he told the story to his employer of how the brave little fellow had protected Billy Butler.

“A fine boy that and a promising one,” said Mr. Patterson cordially; “but surely,” he added, with a slight frown, “he did not tell you of it himself?”

“Not he,” laughed Jacob; “but Tommy Dane has been full of it ever since; and Almira Jane, the help over at the cottage, has told me too. I guess it is owing to her good sense as much as anything else that he’s turned out so well.”

And perhaps it was as well that Jacob did not see the merry twinkle in the banker’s eye at his words. It was surprising how much Mr. Patterson knew of what went on in the village.

One thing was sure. None of the boys’ pets suffered during that week. They had never thought so much of them before; and presently Friday afternoon came, and Mr. Sinclair, leaning back comfortably in his chair, was asking for their stories.

He began with Master Sunshine, because he was the youngest of all; and the little fellow explained how he had learned during the week that heavy hens like his Cochin Chinas should be given low roosts because it was such an effort for them to lift their unwieldy bodies.

“Mine have all been made low now,” he added eagerly; “and Almira Jane says that it is a good common sense-ical idea.”

They all smiled a little over the way he brought in Almira Jane’s name and her funny word. But they had come to have such respect for the manly little fellow that no one laughed aloud.

Then Tommy told how Jacob had taught him to be kind to a pretty colt which his father was bringing up.

“I always thought it was fun to play with it. I often teased it just to make it kick out with its front feet,” he said; “but I know now that that sort of teasing, though it does not hurt the colt at the time, teaches it the habit of kicking. A kicking horse is almost worse than no horse at all.”

“The thing I know about happened last winter,” said his seat-mate. “There was plenty of snow and ice about, but nothing for the birds to drink; so my sister used to put a saucer of water on the window-ledge each morning. The birds would come from a long way off to get a sip from it, and they were always glad to pick up a few crumbs she strewed for them.”

“Mine is a bird story too,” said an observant-looking boy; “but the kindness was done by birds, instead of by people. Last week when a bill-poster was pasting up some advertisements on our barn, a sparrow perched on the edge of the bucket, and got his feet and the tips of his wing-feathers all covered with paste.”

“I meant to catch him and try to tame him, but the bill-poster said to wait and see what happened next; and sure enough, two other sparrows came and flew in circles above his head, and chirped to him as if they were talking over what could be done. At last he managed to loosen his claws from the paste, and to move his wings ever so little. The birds, one on each side of him, helped him to the trough by the side of the road, and he splashed in the water until the paste was quite washed off.”

“And what did this very curious sight make you think of?” said Mr. Sinclair, suddenly leaning over his desk, and looking at the lad.

The boy colored deeply as he said, “It made me think of my string of birds’ eggs at home, and my collection of birds’ nests. I promised myself then that I would never, never do anything to injure birds again. I thought that if they knew enough to be kind to each other I ought to know enough to be kind to them.”

It seemed as if there were no end to the good deeds of which the lads had taken note.

One had seen an old man digging burdock-roots from the corner of a sheep-field; and, when he offered his help, had learned how troublesome the burdock-burrs were to all woolly or hairy animals.

Another had much to say of a lamb-creep that had been arranged so as to give the young lambs a fair share of food. The older sheep too often pushed the young ones aside when feeding-time came, and their owner had built a little fold, into which only the small lambs could enter, where a portion of the food was always placed. All the lambs in his flock were plump and thriving, while in his neighbor’s pastures, where the lambs were left to fight for themselves, they were thin, miserable-looking creatures.

Some told of how thoughtful people kept water always where the pet dogs could get it; and others of the care that should be given to canaries and to goldfish; and the happy hour was nearly over when Mr. Norton said, “Now, Dick, you have told us nothing. Before we break up school for to-day I would like to hear what you have to say.”

Dick shook his head but his teacher knew that he had been listening intently to all that went on, and was very hopeful that at last he had found a way to the heart of his scholar.

“Let me tell for him, please,” interrupted Master Sunshine. “He’s been doing kind things all the week for poor Billy Butler. He dug him a garden last Saturday night, and has filled it with plants from his own garden.”

“Ah!” said the teacher, well pleased at the report. “Dick, I think you have done best of all;” and the boys thumped on the floor with their heavy boots, and banged the covers of the desks, to show their appreciation of the good deed.