I remember that a good many years ago, when I was a boy, my father, who was a stone-mason, did some work for a man named John Haws. When the work was completed, John Haws said he would pay for it on a certain day. It was late in the fall when the work was done, and when the day came on which Mr. Haws had said he would pay for it, a fearful storm of sleet and snow and wind raged from morning until night. We lived nine miles from the Haws home, and the road was a very bad one even in good weather. I remember that father said at the breakfast-table:—
“Well, I guess that we shall not see anything of John Haws today. It will not make any difference if he does not come, as I am not in urgent need of the money he owes me. It will make no difference if it is not paid for a month.”
But about noon Mr. Haws appeared at our door, almost frozen, and covered with sleet and snow.
“Why, John Haws!” exclaimed my father, when he opened the door, and saw who it was that had knocked. “I had not the least idea that you would try to ride away out here in this fearful storm.”
“Did I not say that I would come?” asked John Haws, abruptly.
“O, yes; but I did not regard it as a promise so binding that you must fulfil it on a day like this!”
“Any promise that I make is binding, regardless of wind and weather. I said that I would pay the money today, and I am here to keep my word.”
“But, then, it is only a small sum, and I do not really need it.”
“I need to keep my word. If the sum had been but ten cents, and you were a millionaire, and I had said that I could pay it today, I would be here to pay it if I had been compelled to ride fifty miles.”
Do you wonder that it was often said of John Haws that his word was as good as his bond? He was as truthful as he was honest. I remember that a neighbor of ours stopped at our house one day on his way home from the town. He had an almost incredible story to tell about a certain matter, and father said:—
“Why, it hardly seems possible that such a thing can be true.”
“John Haws told me about it.”
“O, then it is true!”
“Yes, or John Haws never would have told it.”
It is a fine thing to have a reputation like that. It is worth more than much worldly glory and honor when they are combined with the distrust of the people. There are men in high positions, with all that wealth can buy at their command, who are much poorer than humble John Haws, because their word is of no value, and they have none of that high sense of honor that glorifies the humblest life.