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Jane Marcet

A Curious Way To Pay Debts

T HE next day Willy returned to school: he became very prudent, spent no more than threepence a week, and out of that contrived often to buy something for a friend. It is true he also received presents from the other boys, for he was beloved for his generosity, especially now that he was not extravagant and always wanting to borrow money. He had, however, several temptations to resist, when a pedlar came and offered knives of every description, scissors, pocket-books, and I know not how many tempting things, for sale; but he remembered the king's sinking fund, and he took a pride, as well as a pleasure, in adding three pence weekly to his own, without ever taking any thing from it.

The toyman returned at the end of a month. Willy had then a whole shilling in his box, which he paid him; and he longed exceedingly to be able to pay the boys of whom he had borrowed halfpence, some of whom really wanted their money. About this time his friend, Tom Harley, had a visit from an uncle, who gave him half-a-crown. Willy had then sixpence in his sinking-fund box, and he thought that if Tom would but be so kind as to lend him another sixpence, it would just make up the sum to pay all his debts, and he should be free. Tom Harley good-naturedly agreed to this proposal: the boys were paid, and the next time Willy came home from school, he told his Mother of the clever contrivance he had thought of to pay his debts so much sooner than she expected.

His Mother could not help laughing, and said, "Take care I do not call you silly Billy,  as I do sometimes when you are foolish."

Willy was a good deal discomposed at being laughed at, when he had expected to have been praised; and said, "Why, Mamma, it cannot be foolish of me to pay my debts."

"No, certainly; but when you pay your debts with borrowed money, you only change the debtor. You owe just as much now as you did before, only you owe it all to Tom Harley, instead of owing it to the other boys."

"Indeed," said Willy, "that is true! how could I be so foolish."

"Well, Willy," continued his Mother, "I must tell you, that the ministers of the king who first made the sinking-fund, fell just into the same mistake. You must know that, when the war was over, the king being as anxious as you were to pay his debts, and having almost emptied his sinking fund, told his ministers that, if they could think of any means of replenishing it, he should be very glad. So they thought a great deal, and at last one of them hit upon a plan which he fancied was very clever, and that was to borrow a large sum of money to put into the sinking fund, in order to make up for what had been taken out during the war; and he was so much pleased with this contrivance, that he never once thought that borrowing from one person to pay another, changed the debtor without paying the debt."

"How could the king's minister be so foolish?" exclaimed Willy.

"It is certainly very surprising," replied his Mother, "and the more so as the king's ministers are generally some of the wisest people of the country; and it is very proper that they should be so, for there is nothing so difficult as to be able to govern well, and not make such mistakes."

"But I thought, Mamma, it was the parliament that helped the king to govern?"

"The parliament," replied his Mother, "helps the king to make the laws, but not to govern. I will explain the difference to you to-morrow."