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Title: The Lost Knife

Date of first publication: 1907

Author: L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery (1874-1942)

Date first posted: Mar. 15, 2017

Date last updated: Mar. 15, 2017

Faded Page eBook #20170326

This ebook was produced by: Alex White & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

The Lost Knife

L. M. Montgomery

First published The Boys’ World, June 8, 1907.


“Did any of you fellows see my knife?” asked Percy Mason, coming up to the group of boys assembled on the Belmont School playground one fine June day at noon hour recess. “I left it lying on my desk when I left the schoolroom half an hour ago, but it is not there now.”

The boys all declared they had not seen or touched the knife. Percy frowned.

“Well, it’s gone anyway. Somebody must have taken it. Where is Wilfred Brett? He was in the schoolroom studying his Latin when I left it.”

“Wilfred went home soon after you went over to the woods,” said Charlie Gardiner.

“I believe he has taken my knife then,” said Percy angrily. “He is the only boy in school who hasn’t got a knife, and I know he envied me mine by the way I’ve seen him looking at it.”

“Better not make such accusations before you are sure, Percy,” said Jack Green. “You haven’t any proof that Wilfred took your knife.”

“Somebody has taken it,” retorted Percy. “You fellows all say you didn’t, so who is left but Wilfred? He was in the school alone with the knife. Of course he took it! I never trusted him! He always looked too quiet and sneaky for my taste.”

None of the other boys spoke up in Wilfred’s defense. They did not believe that he would steal a schoolmate’s knife, but neither could they affirm that they were sure he wouldn’t. None of them knew much about Wilfred Brett. He was a newcomer in Belmont and had been attending the school only a month. His people were poor and Wilfred’s clothes were shabby. He was quiet, reserved, and studious, and did not make friends easily. His classmates did not dislike him, but as yet he was looked upon as a stranger.

“Here he comes now,” said Charlie, looking down the road. “He can answer for himself.”

Wilfred soon reached the group, but he evidently did not intend to join them. He was passing on with a merely friendly greeting when Percy called to him sharply:

“Hello, Wilfred! I was just asking where you were! Did you see anything of my knife? I left it on my desk just beside yours when I went down to the brook, and it’s gone now.”

There was an offensive something in Percy’s tone that brought a flush of anger to Wilfred’s face. Unfortunately there is no way of distinguishing between flushes of anger and flushes of guilt, as far as appearances go. Wilfred also thought the other boys were looking at him curiously. But he answered quietly:

“No, I saw nothing of your knife, Percy, and I do not think you left it in the schoolroom at all.”

“I tell you I did,” said Percy angrily. “I am sure I left it on my desk. Somebody has taken it, and you are the only fellow who has been in the room since I left.”

“Do you mean to insinuate that I took your knife?” said Wilfred, still quietly, but with a dangerous sparkle in his eyes.

“I insinuate nothing,” retorted Percy. “I only state plain facts. People can draw their own inferences from them, I suppose.”

Percy turned on his heel and marched off. Wilfred clinched his hands, but Jack Green said:

“Never mind, Wilfred. We none of us believe you took the knife, of course. It’s just Percy’s headlong way of jumping at conclusions. And he is so careless it is just as likely he left the knife somewhere else.”

“I assure you I never saw or touched his knife,” said Wilfred, looking steadily into their eyes.

“That settles it,” said Charlie Gardiner. “Of course we believe you.”

It did settle it, as far as the boys were concerned. But Wilfred continued to feel angry and sore. He could not be sure that all suspicion was really banished from the minds of his classmates by his simple asseveration, and he knew that Percy Mason believed that he had stolen his knife. It was a humiliating position. Never before had he been suspected of such a thing, and he felt it keenly.

Three days passed, during which Percy continued to search ostentatiously for his knife, bewailing its loss and throwing out covert hints at Wilfred. As these were not openly directed at him, Wilfred could not resent them, but he chafed under them not a little.

“I hate Percy Mason!” he exclaimed angrily to his sister Isabel. “He is a regular snob, and I’ve disliked him ever since I came to Belmont. All the boys do. But he has some influence, for all that, and if he keeps on insinuating that I stole his knife—stole it! Just fancy, Isabel—I daresay some of the fellows will come to believe I did. If he would say anything openly to me, I could show him I resented it; but he never has since that first time.”

“Don’t mind Percy Mason,” said Isabel gently. She was a pale, sweet-faced girl and she spent most of her time lying on a sofa with a sadly suggestive crutch close at hand; but she and Wilfred were “great chums” and he told her everything.

“It’s easy to say ‘don’t mind,’ ” said Wilfred bitterly, “but I can’t help minding. It isn’t very pleasant to have anyone trying to make you out a thief. My good name is about all the capital I’ve got, and if it is to be spoiled I’ll have a poor show. I’m afraid this will come to Mr. Phillips’ ears—Amy Phillips goes to school, you know—and if it does I’ll have no chance at all to get that position in the mill. Not that I’ve much chance anyhow, I suppose. There are nine applicants already and all with more influence than I have.”

“Don’t get blue, brother mine,” said Isabel cheerily. “It will all come out right yet, if you keep your conscience clear. It’s only real evil that lasts and does harm. And don’t let Percy Mason aggravate you into doing anything you will repent. I think he’d like to do that, and you know that quick temper of yours is very apt to flare up.”

“I do know it only too well,” said Wilfred, with a rueful smile. “I do my best to keep it under control, and you’ve helped me more than words can say, Isabel. You’re the best sister a boy ever had, and I guess I’ll never go very far astray if I always take your advice. Well, I won’t vex myself thinking of Percy. But I do wish I could get that position. It would make it so much easier for mother and you if I could.”

Two days later Wilfred, taking a short cut to school through the woods, found Percy Mason’s knife sticking in a tree down by the brook. He recognized it instantly. With a sparkle in his eyes he pulled it out and hurried up to the playground where the boys were assembled.

“Here is your knife, Percy. I found it stuck in the old poplar tree down by the brook—just where you left it that day you missed it.”

Percy took the knife with a disagreeable sneer.

“That story is a little too thin,” he said mockingly.

Wilfred’s face whitened with anger. The next moment he struck straight out from the shoulder, and Percy went down.

He was on his feet again in a moment, and would have rushed furiously at Wilfred had not the other boys intervened.

“Come now, Percy, no fighting,” said Charlie Gardiner authoritatively. “You know Mr. Wilson doesn’t stand for it. You’d no business to say what you did to Wilfred. We believe his story, so you’d just better take your knife and keep quiet about it.”

Percy took this salutary advice and marched contemptuously away; Wilfred also turned and walked into the schoolroom. His anger had spent itself in the blow, and he felt thoroughly ashamed of himself. Nothing could justify the way he had acted, not even Percy’s sneer.

“I’ve made a nice spectacle of myself,” he thought miserably. “Will I ever learn to control this wretched temper of mine? I have been flattering myself that I had succeeded in winning the mastery over it, and now I go and break out like this. What will Isabel think!”

Wilfred found out what Isabel thought in their customary twilight talk that night.

“Oh, Wilfred, you didn’t knock Percy down!” exclaimed Isabel.

“Yes, I did. I tell you, Isabel, he as good as told me he didn’t believe what I said.”

“Oh, but two wrongs never make a right, Wilfred. Percy didn’t deserve to be knocked down, badly as he has behaved to you. You’ve lowered yourself, brother mine, by giving way to your temper so, and there is only one way you can make it right. You must apologize to Percy.”

“Oh, I say, Isabel!” protested Wilfred in amazement, “you can’t be in earnest. I’m sorry I struck Percy, but I’m not going to stoop to apologize to him.”

“I don’t think it would be stooping,” said Isabel steadily. “I think it would be rising back to the heights of your self-respect again. I think it’s the right thing to do, and I’m not going to say another word about it.”

“You’ve said as much as if you’d preached a sermon,” said Wilfred ruefully. “I daresay you’re right, Isabel—you’re always right. But you don’t know what a bitter pill you want me to swallow. I can’t apologize to Percy Mason, and I won’t.”

Isabel sighed, patted his hand, and said no more. She was a very wise little Isabel, and she understood Wilfred thoroughly. The latter went off to his books, but he could not put his mind on his lessons. It was in vain that he decided that it was out of the question to think of apologizing; the question kept coming up again and again. Long after he went to bed that night he wrestled with it. Finally he sat straight up in bed and spoke out his mind to the darkness.

“I’ll do it. I’ve got to do it before I can get back my self-respect. It doesn’t make any difference what Percy did or said, it is what I did I have to reckon with. It wasn’t right, and I’ve got to own up to it like a man and a gentleman.”

When Wilfred reached the school playground the next morning, he realized that the task would be harder than he had expected. Not only were all the boys present in full force, but the girls were there too. But he did not hesitate. He walked straight up to the group of which Percy Mason, with a black eye, was the center.

“Percy,” he said clearly and distinctly, “I am sorry I struck you yesterday, and I ask your pardon for it.”

Percy turned red, looked the fool to perfection, and muttered something half inaudible about it being “no matter.” Wilfred walked into the schoolroom with his head erect.

“I’m my own man again,” he thought. “Isabel was right.”

It was a pity he could not have heard the comment Charlie Gardiner was making on the playground that moment.

“Wilfred Brett is the right sort,” he said emphatically. “He is one of us from this out. I rather think he has proved his mettle.”

A week later Wilfred was considerably surprised to receive a note from Mr. Phillips, the proprietor of the lumber mill, asking him to come to his office. He found Mr. Phillips alone, and that gentleman came straight to the point, as was his custom.

“You applied for the vacancy here, Wilfred?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I have decided to accept you. You can begin your duties next week.”

Wilfred stared at Mr. Phillips as if doubting his ears. It was too good to be true.

“You seem surprised,” said Mr. Phillips, allowing himself to smile. “You didn’t expect to get the place, eh?”

“No, sir, I didn’t,” said Wilfred frankly. “I knew there were several other applicants. But since you have been so kind as to accept me, I’ll do my best to satisfy you, sir.”

“I don’t doubt that you will; and it isn’t any kindness on my part,” said Mr. Phillips grimly. “It is pure self-interest. I want a boy that I can trust, for there are certain responsibilities attached to the position. My daughter Amy told me all about your trouble in school with that Mason boy, and your manly apology under circumstances that might have excused the lack of an apology. I liked it; I thought it showed that there was good stuff in you.”

“I—I mightn’t have done it, though, sir,” stammered Wilfred, desiring to be honest, “if it hadn’t been for my sister Isabel. I didn’t want to apologize, but she said I ought to.”

Mr. Phillips laughed.

“The boy who takes such advice from his sister, is the boy I’m looking for. That’s all. Good day. Report on Monday.”

[The end of The Lost Knife by L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery]