Honesty is the Best Policy

Hardly had he said this, than there was a great stir among the people. The bride came out of the church dressed in a beautiful gown, with six young ladies behind her to carry the train of her dress. Everyone tried to see her. This was not so easy for William because he was small of stature. But before the church stood thick pillars with broad bases. William ran towards one of the pillars, and as a kind man gave him a helping hand, he soon sat four feet above the ground and could just see the bride step into the carriage. The wedding coach rode away, a second one came, a third one, and finally the last one. Just at the moment that this last carriage was about to ride on, the sleeve of the gown of one of the ladies moved aside somewhat, and William, who just happened to look at her, saw that something dropped to the ground between a pillar and the iron gate.

"Hey, hey, coachman," our young friend cried with a loud voice, "something fell! Wait a minute!" But he could have spoken to the stones as well, for the coachman and the spectators did not understand a word of what he said, no more than he could understand Russian. Besides, no one seemed to have noticed that anything fell. No one, therefore, could make out what the meaning was of that shouting. The coach turned and rode away. William remained a while longer on his elevated place. The spectators went away. The boy looked for his companion, who, fortunately, noticed him, came to where he was, and helped him down.

Hardly was William on the ground than he ran to the gate where he saw laying the object in question. He put his hand through the latticework, and thus he could just pull it towards him.

He saw, to his great surprise, that it was a sparkling golden bracelet, set with precious stones. The mate, of course, did not understand what William was doing there. But when the boy ran towards him and showed him the bracelet, he was greatly astonished, and said: "You are a lucky bird, boy. Only just on shore, and then to find such a precious article. There’s a nice profit in that, eh!"

"A profit," the boy answered, it being his turn to be astonished. "I would rather believe that it is a great loss to the lady who lost it. She sat in the last coach, and it belongs to her. I called to the coachman, but he did not understand me." "I will gladly believe that," said the mate, "but what of that? It is a nice profit to us. That thing is worth more than what both of us earn in a month. We will sell it, and you shall see how much money they will give for it."

William stood still. He looked at the mate with wide eyes. He had not expected such a proposition. Finally he said, "But that would be stealing, My mother has not taught me that, and in God’s law we read, ’Thou shalt not steal.’ "

"Ah, come, boy, those ladies are rich enough, and you can make good use of the money. No one will be able to accuse you, and besides, how are you going to locate the lady, as we will soon sail again?"

"I will try my best, nevertheless," said William resolutely. "I am on leave today and will see if I can return the bracelet."

The mate became somewhat angered and said, "You’ll not be so foolish, I hope. I won’t go with you. You will have to find your way yourself."

"I can’t help it," replied the boy, "I must not be dishonest. My mother has always taught me, ’honesty is the best policy.’ And the Lord forbids me to steal, I will do whatever I can to return the bracelet."

"Then I bid you goodbye," said the mate, and left William standing alone.

That was a difficult case for our young friend. To be alone in the midst of a strange city, unable to find his way, and where no one could understand him. For a moment he lost courage. The temptation was strong, and for a moment he wondered whether the mate was right after all. But then he again thought of his mother, how she had told him that the Lord takes pleasure in uprightness, and that we must be honest before all men, because "honesty is the best policy."

This took such hold of him that William walked on without knowing where he was going. Secretly he prayed to the God of his dear mother, that He might lead him and protect him. After he had gone a short way, he heard loud speaking. It was just as if he understood some of those words. He listened. No, it was not Dutch, but still he could under- stand some of it. He looked about him and noticed two gentlemen, one of whom looked rather friendly. He gathered all his courage, stepped closer, politely removed his cap, and asked, "Sir, could you tell me where those ladies are that came out of the church a while ago?"

The stranger looked astonished at the boy, but seemed to have understood something of the question. Both men spoke German, and after conversed with each other for a moment, William understood enough to know that the lady whom he sought belonged to the company of the court lady, who was married that same day, and most likely would be found at the palace of Countess Polotzki, which was not far from there. William knew enough, and though it cost him a little trouble, it wasn’t long before he had found the street and saw the same carriages stand be- fore the building where the guests were assembled. He recognized the carriage immediately, walked toward the coachman, and realizing that he did not understand him, he showed him the bracelet, and pointed with his finger to the carriage as if to say, "What I found, came from there."

The coachman understood. He hurried, inside and soon came back with a neatly dressed gentleman, who fortunately could speak German, and after exchanging a few words with William, understood the whole case. This gentleman proved to be a servant. He beckoned William to follow him. Our young friend obeyed timidly. He had to wait a moment below while the servant went upstairs.

Soon the message came that the lady herself desired to see the honest finder. William followed the servant through various corridors and rooms, all of them beautifully decorated, so that the plain cabin boy became confused with wonder and embarrassment. At last he was led into a small room. There the lady, whom he had seen in the carriage, sat waiting for him. A short conversation followed, which was difficult for William to understand because the lady spoke German. She took a hearty leave of the boy and departed with the bracelet which he had found.

Soon a servant came, who regaled William to a sumptuous dinner. When at last he was filled and arose to go, a servant accompanied him to the door. While bidding goodbye, a small paper roll was put into his hand. Cheerfully the boy walked on, and after a long walk he reached the ship where he had to relate his experience, of course.

"And what did you get for all your trouble?" the mate asked.

"That I don’t know. This small roll was given to me. Whatever is in it, I cannot say," William answered.

It was speedily opened up, and to the astonishment of all, contained no less than twenty-five gold pieces. The mate was ashamed.

Just then the captain came on deck. He came closer, and, when he had been told all, his eyes became moist. He took the hands of William and said, "William, you have acted honestly and faithfully before God and man; remain that way. You will never be sorry for that. ’Honesty is the best policy.’ How happy your mother will be!"

William was happy. How glad he was that he had not followed the advice of the mate. He longed to go home. Soon the ship had another cargo and sailed away. After a few weeks the youthful voyager stepped ashore again in the little port and ran home, where he fell upon the neck of his dear mother and kissed her heartily.

What a surprise that was when he counted out twenty- five gold pieces to his mother. But she rejoiced yet more when she heard in what manner her son had obtained that money and that he had not listened to the mate’s tempting words, but had acted honestly and faithfully and did that which the Lord commands in His Word.

After a couple of months William had to leave again. The captain paid a brief visit to the home of his faithful cabin boy and said to the mother, "I had promised to take care of your child, but the prayers of his mother availeth more. And above all, that God, Who hears the prayers of His children, shall keep him and preserve him."

Children, those of you who read this, mark well. He that behaves himself shall prosper. Honesty and faithfulness, and that in the fear of the Lord, are treasures which far surpass all the riches of this world.

Adapted by Rev. JVZ