Split Cherry Tree

by Jesse Stuart

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Why does Professor Herbert let Dave go without paying his debt in "Split Cherry Tree"?

Quick answer:

Professor Herbert let's Dave leave early in "Split Cherry Tree" without repaying his debt because his father is waiting for him, and Dave had worked for two hours the previous day. Dave's father convinces his son to return and finish repaying the debt, but the professor wishes to absolve him of the remainder. Dave and his father insist on repaying the debt in full.

Expert Answers

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Professor Herbert at the end of the story tells Dave he can go home and pay his debt by cleaning another time because his father is outside waiting for him. Dave goes and tells his father what the professor said.

His father says that it isn't right. He says the professor is a good man and that Dave must pay his debt. He also tells his son that he will help him do the work.

They go to see Professor Herbert, who says "I'm going to cancel the debt." Dave's father protests and states again that it's not right. The professor says it's okay, but Dave's father will not hear of that. Finally, the professor agrees and goes home. Dave and his father sweep for an hour each to make up the two hours. Dave is not used to seeing his father sweep, as that is his mother's job, and his father says he is not good at it. All the same, he models the importance of repaying a debt.

It is important to note that at no time does Dave go without paying his debt. At the end of the story the professor is willing to let him go and call it even, but Dave's father will not allow it. Dave, with his father's help, pays his debt fully. He works two hours after school the first day, and then the professor lets him go home. The next day Dave does an hour of his work and his father does an hour for him to make up the total of four hours owed.

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