Uncle Rob heard the boys, Harold and Reginald, talking
together in the next room.
      "Will Livingston is the meanest fellow in school," said
Reginald.  "He hid my arithmetic at recess and then he
came in fifteen minutes before school called and worked
on his examples and I was hunting for my book ten minutes
after school called, so he had most half an hour ahead of
me, and beat me in the class.  He had worked out all his
examples, and I hadn't, because I lost the time looking for
my book.  I call that mean.  But I'll get even with him yet,
you see if I don't."
      "Yes, and he beat me in the swimming race at noon by a
mean trick," said Harold.  "I was just one length ahead of
him, and he reached out under the water and pulled my foot
so I couldn't kick sideways and push myself ahead. Then
he shot by me.  I think he is too mean to live."
      "He pushed against me in a running race and jostled me
out of step the other day," added Reginald.  "In fact he is
always up to mean tricks.  But I'll be even with him yet,
and pay him off for every one of them.
      "So will I too, " said Harold.
      "Boys, come here a minute," called Uncle Rob, and the
boys who adored Uncle Rob, and thought him the best, nicest,
kindest, and most fascinating man on earth, ran quickly in
response to his call.
      "I heard what you were saying about Will Livingston,
boys," began Uncle Rob, "and I agree with you that he is a
very mean boy.  I want to tell you how to punish him for all
his disagreeable and dishonest actions."
      "Well, tell us," cried the boys as he paused.  They had
great faith in Uncle Rob's ideas on all subjects.  They were
sure he had some splendid plan of action for them to follow.
      "You want to excel in your studies, and your games, and
to be above criticism in your daily conduct," said Uncle Rob.
"That is the only kind of punishment it is worth while to in-
flict on our enemies in this short life; it is the only revenge
which does not reflect back upon ourselves.  The moment
you speak of 'getting even' with a mean or dishonest or cruel
action, you are planning to be mean, dishonest or cruel
yourself.  Getting even with a wrong-doer means going
backward, not forward. There is nothing noble, worthy or
brave about it. It is the petty spirit, the narrow mind, the
small soul that talks about getting even.  This sort of feel-
ing keeps you from actions of real courage, and bravery, and
from achievements worth while.  Let Will Livingston be-
little himself by such small mean actions if he is determined
upon it, while you go on perfecting yourself in studies and
sports, and you will soon find yourself so far ahead of him
that all of his vindictive tricks cannot hinder your progress.
Your success will be greater punishment to him than any
thing you could do otherwise.  The only time it pays to 'get
even' with someone, is when you have been the recipient of
great kindness; then it is all right to vow that you will get
even by returning equal kindness.  The way to get even
with a mean boy is to keep so far ahead that you are out of
his sight."

The Beautiful Land of Nod by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: Morrill, Higgins & Co. [1892]

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