“Don’t tell me that boys have no influence,” said the dark-eyed lady, with emphasis. “Why, I myself know a boy of twelve whose influence changed the manners of an entire hotel. Tell you about it?—Certainly. It was a family hotel on the seacoast in southern California, and almost all the guests in the house were there for the winter. We had become well acquainted, and—well, lazy I guess is the best word for it. So we decided that it was too much trouble to dress for meals, and dropped into the habit of coming in just as we chanced to be, from lounging in the hammock, or fishing off the pier, or bicycle riding down the beach. Our manners, too, had become about as careless as our dress; we were there for a rest, a good time, and these little things didn’t matter, we said.
“One day there was a new arrival. Mrs. Blinn, a young widow, with her little son, Robert, as sturdy, bright-faced a lad of twelve as one often sees. The first time he came into the dining-room, erect, manly, with his tie and collar and dress in perfect order, escorting his mother as if she had been a princess, and standing till not only she, but every lady at the table was seated, we all felt that a breath of new air had come among us, and every one there, I think, straightened up a little. However we looked at one another and nodded our heads, as much as to say, ‘He won’t keep this up long.’ We were strangers, and in the familiarity of every-day life we did not doubt that it would soon wear away.
“But it did not. Rob was full of life, and active and busy as a boy could well be. At the same time, when, twenty minutes before meals, his mother blew a little silver whistle, no matter where he was or what he was doing, everything was dropped, and he ran in to make himself ready. And every time he came to the table, with his clean face and smooth hair and clothes carefully arranged or changed, he was in himself a sermon on neatness and self-respect, which, though none of us said much about it, we felt all the same. Then by and by one and another began to respond to the little silver whistle, as well as Rob. One laid aside a bicycle dress, another a half-invalid negligee, till you could hardly have believed it was the same company of a few weeks before.
“It was the same with manners. Rob’s politeness, simple, unaffected, and unfailing, at the table, on the veranda, upon the beach, wherever you met him; his readiness to be helpful; his deference to those older; his thoughtfulness for all, was the best lesson,—that of example. As a consequence, the thoughtless began to remember, and the selfish to feel ashamed, and the careless to keep themselves more in hand.
“And so, as I said in the beginning, in less than a month the whole atmosphere of that hotel had been changed by the influence of one boy; and the only one utterly unconscious of this was Rob himself.”
This is truly a pleasing incident. We like to think of this boy who, because he was at heart a true little gentleman, drew what was kindly and courteous and gracious in those about him to the surface as by a magnet. In like manner it is possible for every boy to be so true and kindly and tender, so unselfish of action, so obedient to duty, so responsive to conscience, that, wherever he goes, he shall carry an inspiring atmosphere and influence with him; and whoever he meets shall, because of him, be drawn to better thoughts and nobler living.
—Adele E. Thompson.