The path to the truth
The rain that had been falling for some days stopped on that afternoon, and the whole class sighed with relief. The boys now knew that the football match they were looking for so much wouldn’t be cancelled due to bad weather.
“We’ll meet on the field at three o’clock sharp,” said Matthew to Richard, as they were heading towards home after school.
As Matthew kicked the stones on the road to improve his scoring ability, Richard kept mumbling something unintelligible. Matthew tried to hit a tree trunk, a rock, and even one of the leaves in a branch. Richard found it hard to endure his friend’s behaviour. Matthew’s stone-kicking had already caused too much trouble, although he saw his poor shooting as a further reason to keep improving. For him, stone-kicking was definitely a matter of life or death.
Richard was thinking on this when he heard the sound of broken glass: Matthew’s last stone had gone right through Mr. Gilbert’s front window. Richard stood staring at it, unable to move.
“We’d better run!” he heard Matthew hissing.
And off he went, fleeing the crime scene.
Richard was still looking at him when he felt someone grabbing him by the collar and giving him a strong pull. It was Mr. Gilbert, furious and breathless.
“At last I get my hands on you, little crook! Just wait until I take you to your father!”
At three o’clock sharp, Matthew went to the playfield and was surprised not to see Richard there.
They must have caught him! Matthew thought.
Either Richard had taken the blame for the broken window or he hadn’t been allowed him to explain himself. After all, Richard’s father had a reputation for being strict. All of a sudden, Matthew lost interest in the match. He was thinking of the window and of Richard.
His bad conscience began to torment him. Slowly, his head bent down, he left the field and walked, hesitatingly, towards Richard’s house.
It was the father who answered the door. Mad as he was, he didn’t even allow Matthew to utter a single word.
“You came here for nothing, my boy! Richard is in his room, doing his homework… He won’t be going to the match as punishment for what he did. He’ll tell you all about it next Monday at school.”
Having said this, Richard’s father nearly slammed the door on Matthew’s face. The boy rang the doorbell once again, although he felt hopeless. He couldn’t accept such an injustice.
Suddenly, Matthew had an idea and ran back home. His mother wasn’t back from work yet. He looked for a sheet of paper and an envelope. Then he wrote a few lines in a hurry and took the letter to the nearest post office. He showed the clerk the money he had left from his weekly allowance and asked:
“Is this enough to send a letter to town by express mail?”
“You will even get some change, my boy.”
“Will the letter be delivered today?”
The clerk laughed and said:
“What’s the hurry? Don’t be afraid, you’re a lucky guy. Your letter may reach its destination in half an hour.”
Matthew gladly gave him the letter. Half an hour later Richard’s father was opening a letter, which had been delivered by a postman in a motorcycle. Surprised, he read:
Dear Mr. Porter,
I was the one who broke the window glass and I’m going to pay for it with my week allowances.
I am waiting for the answer to this letter in front of your house.
The answer that Mr Porter sent to Matthew weighed almost 40 kg and was laughing. It was Richard! When he saw his friend waiting for him at the door, he said:
“Matthew, you are the craziest boy in the world! I’ll never forget what you have done.”
“I think we’d better hurry or we’ll miss the second half of the match too!” was all that Matthew could say.
Jutta Modler (Org.)
Wien, Herder, 1987