He boys' house-master said:
'They have run away again. We warned them not to do it, but our words don't have much influence on them. This is the third time.
'Why do they run away?' asked a teacher
'I don't know. Perhaps because they want to be vagrants, wanderers.'
'How did you manage to find them the last time?'
'The first time we caught up with them in the bus-station. The last time they were seen sleeping on park benches. There was martial law at the time and soldiers patrolling the curfew spotted them and kept an eye on them - then, we were informed and fetched them. We told them very clearly that such behaviour would get them into serious trouble but, as I say, our warnings have proved useless.'
The three like-minded friends had made up their minds to escape this time by train. After they had bought their tickets, they tried to get onto the platform. An experienced ticket-collector was able to recognize that they were fugitives. However, he said to them:
'It is not safe here, there are a lot of thieves about. Give me your tickets and money, and I shall keep them safe for you until the train comes. Believe me, I think of you as my own children.'
The young boys believed the ticket-collector and gave him their money and tickets. The ticket-collector informed security and asked them to find out who the students were and then to inform their school authorities.
A station security officer came up to the students and chatted to them in a kind, friendly way. When he found out what he wanted to know, he informed the school authorities.
The house-master came to the station before the train was due to leave. He collected the students and returned them to their dormitory. This time they would get a beating, he thought, because every kind of warning had been given to them. On the way to the dormitory, they met the Headmaster. When the situation to him was explained to him, he said to the house-master:
Bring me three iron bars. I am going to give a lecture and these students should attend it.
As the house-master went to get the iron bars, he thought: 'Good Lord! Isn't one bar enough? Is it likely to break?! Anyway, there must be some reason for it, though I can't imagine what it is.'
He brought the three iron bars to the Headmaster .The Head then lectured the students, who listened to him in a bored, anxious way like patients waiting for an operation. Then, he said:
'OK. Now, come, follow me.' He led them all into the next room. Surprisingly, he spoke first to the house-master:
Take off your shirt, as I am taking off mine. And you boys, pick! It is we who deserve the beating. If we had set a good example, if we had been able to recognize and encourage the humanity in your souls, you would never have wished to be runaways. We stand before you, naked to the waist. Strike us as you wish!'
The boys who were already worn out when they entered this room, now flung themselves to the floor in misery:
'Do whatever you want to us, but please forgive us,' they said tearfully.
The Headmaster had not been joking. He had meant what he said. He had reached his conclusion only after serious self-examination. When he recognized in the boys' manner and tone a desire to return voluntarily, he changed his mind about punishment. None of the boys ever ran away again.