Children’s Story — Can & Could

“It’ll be moonlight tonight,” said a schoolboy; “won’t you join our skating party?”

“No,” replied Can; “you know there wasn’t a boy in my class that had his arithmetic lesson today, and the teacher gave it to us again. I can master it, and I will. That lesson must not beat me twice. I mean to make sure of it, so you’ll have to excuse me from joining your party.”

“Shall I not help you?” asked his elder sister.

“Let me try it first,” replied Can; “I feel like going at it with a will; for I’ve heard that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ ” He did not stop until every example was worked out.

“If I only could learn this horrid lesson!” exclaimed his classmate, Could, made a few random figures on his slate, and then began to draw dog’s heads.

“Is that the way you study your lesson? ” asked his mother reprovingly.

“If I only could get it,” replied the boy, fretfully, “I should be glad to work at it with all my might, but it’s too hard and dry for anybody.”

“Surely you could learn some of it, if you would only try,” said his mother, and as this could not be gainsaid, Could looked at his book again. But the next moment he jumped from his chair, and ran to the window.

“Oh, this splendid moonlight!” he exclaimed. “It’s really too bad to lose that skating. I think I’ll go.”

“But your lessons are not prepared,” said his mother.

“I know that.” Answered Could; “but when I come back, there will be time enough for them.”

Off he went, and the next day, in the class, he drawled: “I would have learned the lesson if I could.

Can and Could both had to drive cows to pasture and to hoe in the garden. Can’s cows were regularly cropping grass on the hillside long before Could was out of bed. Can easily kept ahead of the weeds by hoeing before they got much start. Could waited until there was “some real need of hoeing, to keep the weeds down,” but the weeds had such a start then that they soon got ahead of him, and ahead of the crops, too, which were hardly worth gathering, although Can’s garden yielded bountifully.

“If I could have had such a garden as that,” said Could, “I should have been glad to hoe up every weed; but my garden was so poor that it didn’t make much difference whether I hoed or not.”

“If I could only be a great man, how much I would do to reform men!” exclaimed Could. Sometime I mean to do something on a large scale in this world.”

Can was never heard to express such noble sentiments; but he attended diligently to business, and, as he prospered, employed many men at fair wages, thus enabling them to support their families in comfort.

Can, by diligence and economy, became prosperous and happy; Could, by indolence and procrastination, became discontented and unhappy. Will you be Can or Could?

Taken from The Youth’s Instructor, April 27, 1899