Mrs. Bertram sat reading a book one morning, or trying to. It was not easy to do so, for her little boy, Roger, was out in the hall playing with his drum. Suddenly the drumming ceased, and in a moment Roger rushed into the room crying as if his heart would break.
"I've burst it. I've burst it," he sobbed.
"Your drum asked his mother. "How did you do that?"
"I was beating it with the poker and the tongs and--"
"With the poker and tongs!" exclaimed his mother. "Why, where were your drum-sticks?"
Then Roger stopped crying, and hung his head with shame.
"Where are your drum-sticks?" asked his mother, again.
"I--I--don't know," sobbed Roger.
"Have you lost those, too?" said Mrs. Bertram. She needed no words for answer. Roger's manner was quite enough. "You know, dear, what I said would happen the next time you lost anything."
"Yes," said Roger, "I you said I must give away all my toys to some little boys who would take care of them."
"Yes," said his mother. "I see you remember. I shall send them all to-night to the Children's Hospital."
"But, mama," said Roger, "if I don't have any toys to take care of, how can I learn to take care of them?"
Mrs. Bertram had to turn away so that Roger should not see her smile.
"I shall have to think of some other way to teach you to be careful. Now go and bring me all your toys."
Roger went out of the room to do as his mother said. When he had gone, Mrs. Bertram sat thinking until he came back.
"I have decided that I want you to dust the library every morning."
Roger looked astonished. "Boys don't dust," he said.
"Sometimes," said his mother, smilingly. "Your Uncle Fred had to dust his own room when he was at West Point. Now if you dust the library every morning for two months faithfully, and do not break a single ornament, I shall know you have grown careful in one way, and that may help you to be careful in another."
The next morning Roger began his work. At first he disliked it very much, but after a while he grew very particular. It was not pleasant to be without any toys, and he determined to earn them.
The day when his trial of two months would be up, would be Christmas Day. He did not know if his presents this year would be toys or useful things. All his mother had said about his work was, "My dear, you are improving."
Christmas night came, and with it a beautiful tree. Imagine Roger's delight when he saw on and about it new skates, a new sled, a new violin and a new drum.
And up in the highest branches, in letters of gold, these words: "For the boy who has proved he can be careful when he tries."