A Narrow Escape

I think this excerpt from the Autobiography of Benjamin Hallowell (Philadelphia: Friends Book Association, 1883) makes an interesting story for children:

I dreaded going to school exceedingly, and thought any expedient, which was not criminal, would be justifiable that would relieve me from a day of such agony. We had school six days in the week, except monthly meeting day, and when school was dismissed the Seventh Day afternoon, I would walk home with a light heart and enjoy the evening greatly—but sadness would rest on me the next morning, from the dark shadow of the approaching school day.

One morning under strong pressure of these feelings, I thought I would make one more effort, and hid my hat. When the time arrived to go to school, Mother brought my basket of dinner and said, "Now, my son, it is time to go to school." I told her I could not find my hat anywhere. She told me to look again. I replied, I had been looking a long time. She then came to assist me in hunting it, and whether or not she suspected I had hidden it, I never knew; but she went deliberately and got her black silk bonnet, and said, "Thee can wear this today," and without changing a muscle on her face, began to tie it on. I looking steadily into her eye, where, child as I was, I could see a look of determination that I knew to be irresistible. I exclaimed, "Oh Mother, I think I can find my hat," but she kept tying the strings of the bonnet. "I am sure I can find it, mother, it is in the dough-trough," by which time the bonnet was well tied on and her countenance still unrelaxed. This circumstance is strongly impressed on me to this day. I went with a quick step to the dough-trough and got my hat, and said, "Here it is, Mother; please take the bonnet off," which she did, to my great joy, and felt that I had made a narrow escape and never tried it again. This was one turning point in my life.

With my disposition and capacity for expedients, had she then yielded, the consequences cannot be told. I fully believe her firmness on that occasion saved me. The school seemed pleasanter after I satisfied myself there was no remedy, and from that time I got on rapidly with my studies, and I think, became a favorite with the teacher.

Benjamin Hallowell, great-great-great-uncle to our children, became an educator who started the Alexandria Boarding School in Alexandria,Virginia, taught mathematics to Robert E. Lee, and lectured at the Smithsonian Institute.