Little Martin was a poor boy, who earned his bread by doing errands. One day he was returning from a village, which was quite distant from his home, and feeling tired, he sat down under a large tree, near an inn, to rest. While he sat there, eating a piece of bread which he had taken for his dinner, he saw a handsome carriage driving up, in which sat a young gentleman and his teacher.
Martin looked at them very attentively, and then looked at his crust of bread and at his ragged clothes and old cap; and he could not help sighing as he said, half aloud, “Oh, dear! If I were but that young gentleman, instead of being poor Martin the errand boy! How I wish I could change places with him!”
The teacher chanced to overhear what Martin said, and he told it to his pupil, who, leaning out of the coach window, beckoned Martin to come near.
“So, little boy,” said he, “you would like to change places with me, would you?”
“I beg pardon, sir,” replied Martin; “I meant no harm by what I said.”
“I am not angry with you,” said the young gentleman; “on the contrary, I am quite willing to change places with you.”
“Oh, now you are joking!” cried Martin; “no one would wish to change places with me, and least of all, a gentleman like yourself. I am obliged to walk many miles every day and seldom have anything but dry bread or potatoes to eat, while you may ride in your nice carriage, and have whatever you desire.”
“Well,” said the young gentleman, “if you will give me all you have that I have not, I will in turn give you everything that belongs to me.”
Martin started, for he did not know what to say; but the teacher desired him to answer.
“Do you agree to change?” said he.
“Oh, yes,” said Martin, “I do indeed, if you are in earnest. How the people in the village will wonder to see me coming back in this grand coach.” And Martin laughed at the idea.
The young gentleman then called his servants, and they opened the coach door, and helped him to get out. But what was Martin’s surprise on seeing that both his legs were quite crooked, and of no use to him!
He was obliged to lean upon crutches for support; and on looking at him more closely, Martin saw that his face was pale and thin, like that of a person who is often ill. The young gentleman smiled kindly on Martin, and said, “Well, my lad, do you still wish to change situations with me? Would you, if you could, give up your rosy cheeks for the sake of driving in a carriage, and wearing a handsome coat?”
“Oh, no, not for the world!” said Martin.
“And I,” said the young gentleman, “would gladly be poor, if I only had the use of my limbs; but as it is God’s will that I should be lame and sickly, I try to be patient and cheerful, and to be thankful for the blessings He has left me.
“And you, my young friend, must do the same, and remember that if you have poor clothes and hard fare, you have health and strength, which are far better than a coach and horses, and what money can buy.” Selected.
The Youth’s Instructor, April 14, 1886.