Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Boy Who Said "I Must"
by [?]

Farther back than the memory of the grandfathers and grandmothers of some of my young readers can go, there lived in a historic town in Massachusetts a brave little lad who loved books and study more than toys or games, or play of any kind. The dearest wish of his heart was to be able to go to school every day, like more fortunate boys and girls, so that, when he should grow up to be a man, he might be well educated and fitted to do some grand work in the world. But his help was needed at home, and, young as he was, he began then to learn the lessons of unselfishness and duty. It was hard, wasn’t it, for a little fellow only eight years old to have to leave off going to school and settle down to work on a farm? Many young folks at his age think they are very badly treated if they are not permitted to have some toy or story book, or other thing on which they have set their hearts; and older boys and girls, too, are apt to pout and frown if their whims are not gratified. But Theodore’s parents were very poor, and could not even indulge his longing to go to school.

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.