THERE was once a very proud boy. He always walked through the village with his eyes turned down and his hands in his pockets. The boys used to stare at him, and say nothing; and when he was out of sight, they breathed freely. So the proud boy was lonely, and would have had no friends out of doors if it had not been for two stray dogs, the green trees, and a flock of geese upon the common.
One day, just by the weaver’s cottage, he met the tailor’s son. Now the tailor’s son made more noise than any other boy in the village, and when he had done anything wrong he stuck to it, and said he didn’t care; so the neighbours thought that he was very brave, and would do wonders when he came to be a man, and some of them hoped he would be a great traveller, and stay long in distant lands. When the tailor’s son saw the proud boy he danced in front of him, and made faces, and provoked him sorely, until, at last, the proud boy turned round and suddenly boxed the ears of the tailor’s son, and threw his hat into the road. The tailor’s son was surprised, and, without waiting to pick up his hat, ran away, and sitting down in the carpenter’s yard, cried bitterly. After a few minutes, the proud boy came to him and returned him his hat, saying politely.
“There is no dust on it ; you deserved to have your ears boxed, but I am sorry I was so rude as to throw your hat on to the road.”
“I thought you were proud,” said the tailor’s son, astonished; “I didn’t think you’d say that I wouldn’t.”
“Perhaps you are not proud?”
“No, I am not.”
“Ah, that makes a difference,” said the proud boy, still more politely. “When you are proud, and have done a foolish thing, you make a point of owning it.”
“But it takes a lot of courage,” said the tailor’s son.
“Oh, dear, no,” answered the proud boy; “it only takes a lot of cowardice not to;” and then turning his eyes down again, he softly walked away.