Part 1 out of 10
This etext was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
THE PARENT'S ASSISTANT OR STORIES FOR CHILDREN
by Maria Edgeworth
Preface Addressed to Parents.
Our great lexicographer, in his celebrated eulogium on Dr. Watts, thus
speaks in commendation of those productions which he so successfully
penned for the pleasure and instruction of the juvenile portion of the
"For children," says Dr. Johnson, "he condescended to lay aside the
philosopher, the scholar, and the wit, to write little poems of devotion,
and systems of instruction adapted to their wants and capacities, from
the dawn of reason to its gradation of advance in the morning of life.
Every man acquainted with the common principles of human action, will
look with veneration on the writer, who is at one time combating Locke,
and at another time making a catechism for CHILDREN IN THEIR FOURTH YEAR.
A voluntary descent from the dignity of science is perhaps the hardest
lesson which humility can teach."
It seems, however, no very easy task to write for children. Those only
who have been interested in the education of a family, who have patiently
followed children through the first processes of reasoning, who have
daily watched over their thoughts and feelings--those only who know with
what ease and rapidity the early association of ideas are formed, on
which the future taste, character and happiness depend, can feel the
dangers and difficulties of such an undertaking.
Indeed, in all sciences the grand difficulty has been to ascertain facts-
-a difficulty which, in the science of education, peculiar circumstances
conspire to increase. Here the objects of every experiment are so
interesting that we cannot hold our minds indifferent to the result. Nor
is it to be expected that many registers of experiments, successful and
unsuccessful, should be kept, much less should be published, when we
consider that the combined powers of affection and vanity, of partiality
to his child and to his theory, will act upon the mind of a parent, in
opposition to the abstract love of justice, and the general desire to
increase the wisdom and happiness of mankind. Notwithstanding these
difficulties, an attempt to keep such a register has actually been made.
The design has from time to time been pursued. Though much has not been
collected, every circumstance and conversation that have been preserved
are faithfully and accurately related, and these notes have been of great
advantage to the writer of the following stories.
The question, whether society could exist without the distinction of
ranks, is a question involving a variety of complicated discussions,
which we leave to the politician and the legislator. At present it is
necessary that the education of different ranks should, in some respects,
be different. They have few ideas, few habits in common; their peculiar
vices and virtues do not arise from the same causes, and their ambition
is to be directed to different objects. But justice, truth, and humanity
are confined to no particular rank, and should be enforced with equal
care and energy upon the minds of young people of every station; and it
is hoped that these principles have never been forgotten in the following
As the ideas of children multiply, the language of their books should
become less simple; else their taste will quickly be disgusted, or will
remain stationary. Children that live with people who converse with
elegance will not be contented with a style inferior to what they hear
from everybody near them.
All poetical allusions, however, have been avoided in this book; such
situations only are described as children can easily imagine, and which
may consequently interest their feelings. Such examples of virtue are
painted as are not above their conception of excellence, or their powers
of sympathy and emulation.
It is not easy to give REWARDS to children which shall not indirectly do
them harm by fostering some hurtful taste or passion. In the story of
"Lazy Lawrence," where the object was to excite a spirit of industry,
care has been taken to proportion the reward to the exertion, and to
demonstrate that people feel cheerful and happy whilst they are employed.
The reward of our industrious boy, though it be money, is only money
considered as the means of gratifying a benevolent wish. In a commercial
nation it is especially necessary to separate, as much as possible, the
spirit of industry and avarice; and to beware lest we introduce Vice
under the form of Virtue.
In the story of "Tarlton and Loveit" are represented the danger and the
folly of that weakness of mind, and that easiness to be led, which too
often pass for good nature; and in the tale of the "False Key" are
pointed out some of the evils to which a well educated boy, on first
going to service, is exposed from the profligacy of his fellow servants.
In the "Birthday Present," and in the character of Mrs. Theresa Tattle,
the "Parent's Assistant" has pointed out the dangers which may arise in
education from a bad servant, or a common acquaintance.
In the "Barring Out" the errors to which a high spirit and the love of
party are apt to lead have been made the subject of correction, and it is
hoped that the common fault of making the most mischievous characters
appear the most ACTIVE and the most ingenious, has been as much as
possible avoided. UNSUCCESSFUL cunning will not be admired, and cannot
It has been attempted, in these stories, to provide antidotes against
ill-humour, the epidemic rage for dissipation, and the fatal propensity
to admire and imitate whatever the fashion of the moment may distinguish.
Were young people, either in public schools, or in private families,
absolutely free from bad examples, it would not be advisable to introduce
despicable and vicious characters in books intended for their
improvement. But in real life they MUST see vice, and it is best that
they should be early shocked with the representation of what they are to
avoid. There is a great deal of difference between innocence and
To prevent the precepts of morality from tiring the ear and the mind, it
was necessary to make the stories in which they are introduced in some
measure dramatic; to keep alive hope and fear and curiosity, by some
degree of intricacy. At the same time, care has been taken to avoid
inflaming the imagination, or exciting a restless spirit of adventure, by
exhibiting false views of life, and creating hopes which, in the ordinary
course of things, cannot be realized.
THE FALSE KEY
THE WHITE PIGEON
THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT
FORGIVE AND FORGET
WASTE NOT, WANT NOT; OR, TWO STRINGS TO YOUR BOW
THE BARRING OUT; OR, PARTY SPIRIT
THE LITTLE MERCHANTS
THE BASKET WOMAN
Near the ruins of the castle of Rossmore, in Ireland, is a small cabin,
in which there once lived a widow and her four children. As long as she
was able to work, she was very industrious, and was accounted the best
spinner in the parish; but she overworked herself at last, and fell ill,
so that she could not sit to her wheel as she used to do, and was obliged
to give it up to her eldest daughter, Mary.
Mary was at this time about twelve years old. One evening she was
sitting at the foot of her mother's bed spinning, and her little brothers
and sisters were gathered round the fire eating their potatoes and milk
for supper. "Bless them, the poor young creatures!" said the widow, who,
as she lay on her bed, which she knew must be her deathbed, was thinking
of what would become of her children after she was gone. Mary stopped
her wheel, for she was afraid that the noise of it had wakened her
mother, and would hinder her from going to sleep again.
"No need to stop the wheel, Mary, dear, for me," said her mother, "I was
not asleep; nor is it THAT which keeps me from sleep. But don't overwork
"Oh, no fear of that," replied Mary; "I'm strong and hearty."
"So was I once," said her mother.
"And so you will be again, I hope," said Mary, "when the fine weather
"The fine weather will never come again to me," said her mother. "'Tis a
folly, Mary, to hope for that; but what I hope is, that you'll find some
friend--some help--orphans as you'll soon all of you be. And one thing
comforts my heart, even as I AM lying here, that not a soul in the wide
world I am leaving has to complain of me. Though poor I have lived
honest, and I have brought you up to be the same, Mary; and I am sure the
little ones will take after you; for you'll be good to them--as good to
them as you can."
Here the children, who had finished eating their suppers, came round the
bed, to listen to what their mother was saying. She was tired of
speaking, for she was very weak; but she took their little hands, as they
laid them on the bed and joining them all together, she said, "Bless you,
dears; bless you; love and help one another all you can. Good night!--
Mary took the children away to their bed, for she saw that their mother
was too ill to say more; but Mary did not herself know how ill she was.
Her mother never spoke rightly afterwards, but talked in a confused way
about some debts, and one in particular, which she owed to a
schoolmistress for Mary's schooling; and then she charged Mary to go and
pay it, because she was not able to GO IN with it. At the end of the
week she was dead and buried, and the orphans were left alone in their
The two youngest girls, Peggy and Nancy, were six and seven years old.
Edmund was not yet nine, but he was a stout-grown, healthy boy, and well
disposed to work. He had been used to bring home turf from the bog on
his back, to lead cart-horses, and often to go on errands for gentlemen's
families, who paid him a sixpence or a shilling, according to the
distance which he went, so that Edmund, by some or other of these little
employments, was, as he said, likely enough to earn his bread; and he
told Mary to have a good heart, for that he should every year grow able
to do more and more, and that he should never forget his mother's words
when she last gave him her blessing, and joined their hands all together.
As for Peggy and Nancy, it was little that they could do; but they were
good children, and Mary, when she considered that so much depended upon
her, was resolved to exert herself to the utmost. Her first care was to
pay those debts which her mother had mentioned to her, for which she left
money done up carefully in separate papers. When all these were paid
away, there was not enough left to pay both the rent of the cabin and a
year's schooling for herself and sisters which was due to the
schoolmistress in a neighbouring village.
Mary was in hopes that the rent would not be called for immediately, but
in this she was disappointed. Mr. Harvey, the gentleman on whose estate
she lived, was in England, and, in his absence, all was managed by a Mr.
Hopkins, an agent, who was a HARD MAN.* The driver came to Mary about a
week after her mother's death, and told her that the rent must be brought
in the next day, and that she must leave the cabin, for a new tenant was
coming into it; that she was too young to have a house to herself, and
that the only thing she had to do was to get some neighbour to take her
and her brother and her sisters in for charity's sake.
*A hard-hearted man.
The driver finished by hinting that she would not be so hardly used if
she had not brought upon herself the ill-will of Miss Alice, the agent's
daughter. Mary, it is true, had refused to give Miss Alice a goat upon
which she had set her fancy; but this was the only offence of which she
had been guilty, and at the time she refused it her mother wanted the
goat's milk, which was the only thing she then liked to drink.
Mary went immediately to Mr. Hopkins, the agent, to pay her rent; and she
begged of him to let her stay another year in her cabin; but this he
refused. It was now September 25th, and he said that the new tenant must
come in on the 29th, so that she must quit it directly. Mary could not
bear the thoughts of begging any of the neighbours to take her and her
brother and sisters in FOR CHARITY'S SAKE; for the neighbours were all
poor enough themselves. So she bethought herself that she might find
shelter in the ruins of the old castle of Rossmore where she and her
brother, in better times, had often played at hide and seek. The kitchen
and two other rooms near it were yet covered in tolerably well; and a
little thatch, she thought, would make them comfortable through the
winter. The agent consented to let her and her brother and sisters go in
there, upon her paying him half a guinea in hand, and promising to pay
the same yearly.
Into these lodgings the orphans now removed, taking with them two
bedsteads, a stool, chair and a table, a sort of press, which contained
what little clothes they had, and a chest in which they had two hundred
of meal. The chest was carried for them by some of the charitable
neighbours, who likewise added to their scanty stock of potatoes and turf
what would make it last through the winter.
These children were well thought of and pitied, because their mother was
known to have been all her life honest and industrious. "Sure," says one
of the neighbours, "we can do no less than give a helping hand to the
poor orphans, that are so ready to help themselves." So one helped to
thatch the room in which they were to sleep, and another took their cow
to graze upon his bit of land on condition of having half the milk; and
one and all said they should be welcome to take share of their potatoes
and buttermilk if they should find their own ever fall short.
The half-guinea which Mr. Hopkins, the agent, required for letting Mary
into the castle, was part of what she had to pay to the schoolmistress,
to whom above a guinea was due. Mary went to her, and took her goat
along with her, and offered it in part of payment of the debt, but the
schoolmistress would not receive the goat. She said that she could afford
to wait for her money till Mary was able to pay it; that she knew her to
be an honest, industrious little girl, and she would trust her with more
than a guinea. Mary thanked her; and she was glad to take the goat home
again, as she was very fond of it.
Being now settled in their house, they went every day regularly to work;
Maud spun nine cuts a day, besides doing all that was to be done in the
house; Edmund got fourpence a day by his work; and Peggy and Annie earned
twopence apiece at the paper-mills near Navan, where they were employed
to sort rags, and to cut them into small pieces.
When they had done work one day, Annie went to the master of the paper-
mill and asked him if she might have two sheets of large white paper
which were lying on the press. She offered a penny for the paper; but
the master would not take anything from her, but gave her the paper when
he found that she wanted it to make a garland for her mother's grave.
Annie and Peggy cut out the garland, and Mary, when it was finished, went
along with them and Edmund to put it up. It was just a month after their
It happened, at the time the orphans were putting up this garland, that
two young ladies, who were returning home after their evening walk,
stopped at the gate of the churchyard to look at the red light which the
setting sun cast upon the window of the church. As the ladies were
standing at the gate, they heard a voice near them crying, "O, mother!
mother! are you gone for ever?" They could not see anyone, so they
walked softly round to the other side of the church, and there they saw
Mary kneeling beside a grave, on which her brothers and sisters were
hanging their white garlands.
The children all stood still when they saw the two ladies passing near
them; but Mary did not know anybody was passing, for her face was hid in
Isabella and Caroline (so these ladies were called) would not disturb the
poor children; but they stopped in the village to inquire about them. It
was at the house of the schoolmistress that they stopped, and she gave
them a good account of these orphans. She particularly commended Mary's
honesty, in having immediately paid all her mother's debts to the utmost
farthing, as far as her money would go. She told the ladies how Mary had
been turned out of her house, and how she had offered her goat, of which
she was very fond, to discharge a debt due for her schooling; and, in
short, the schoolmistress, who had known Mary for several years, spoke so
well of her that these ladies resolved that they would go to the old
castle of Rossmore to see her the next day.
When they went there, they found the room in which the children lived as
clean and neat as such a ruined place could be made. Edmund was out
working with a farmer, Mary was spinning, and her little sisters were
measuring out some bogberries, of which they had gathered a basketful,
for sale. Isabella, after telling Mary what an excellent character she
had heard of her, inquired what it was she most wanted; and Mary said
that she had just worked up all her flax, and she was most in want of
more flax for her wheel.
Isabella promised that she would send her a fresh supply of flax, and
Caroline bought the bogberries from the little girls, and gave them money
enough to buy a pound of coarse cotton for knitting, as Mary said that
she could teach them how to knit.
The supply of flax, which Isabella sent the next day, was of great
service to Mary, as it kept her in employment for above a month; and when
she sold the yarn which she had spun with it, she had money enough to buy
some warm flannel for winter wear. Besides spinning well, she had
learned at school to do plain work tolerably neatly, and Isabella and
Caroline employed her to work for them; by which she earned a great deal
more than she could by spinning. At her leisure hours she taught her
sisters to read and write; and Edmund, with part of the money which he
earned by his work out of doors, paid a schoolmaster for teaching him a
little arithmetic. When the winter nights came on, he used to light his
rush candles for Mary to work by. He had gathered and stripped a good
provision of rushes in the month of August, and a neighbour gave him
grease to dip them in.
One evening, just as he had lighted his candles, a footman came in, who
was sent by Isabella with some plain work to Mary. This servant was an
Englishman, and he was but newly come over to Ireland. The rush candles
caught his attention; for he had never seen any of them before, as he
came from a part of England where they were not used. Edmund, who was
ready to oblige, and proud that his candles were noticed showed the
Englishman how they were made, and gave him a bundle of rushes.*
[*"The proper species of rush," says White, in his 'Natural History of
Selborne,' "seems to be the Juncus effusus, or common soft rush, which is
to be found in moist pastures, by the sides of streams, and under
hedges. These rushes are in best condition in the height of summer, but
may be gathered so as to serve the purpose well quite on to autumn. The
largest and longest are the best. Decayed labourers, women, and children
make it their business to procure and prepare them. As soon as they are
cut, they must be flung into water, and kept there; for otherwise they
will dry and shrink, and the peel will not run. When these junci are
thus far prepared, they must lie out on the grass to be bleached and take
the dew for some nights, and afterwards be dried in the sun. Some
address is required in dipping these rushes in the scalding fat or
grease; but this knack is also to be attained by practice. A pound of
common grease may be procured for fourpence, and about six pounds of
grease will dip a pound of rushes and one pound of rushes may be bought
for one shilling; so that a pound of rushes, medicated and ready for use,
will cost three shillings."]
The servant was pleased with his good nature in this trifling instance,
and remembered it long after it was forgotten by Edmund. Whenever his
master wanted to send a messenger anywhere, Gilbert (for that was the
servant's name) always employed his little friend Edmund, whom, upon
further acquaintance, he liked better and better. He found that Edmund
was both quick and exact in executing commissions.
One day, after he had waited a great while at a gentleman's house for an
answer to a letter, he was so impatient to get home that he ran off
without it. When he was questioned by Gilbert why he did not bring an
answer, he did not attempt to make any excuse; he did not say, "There was
no answer, please your honour," or, "They bid me not to wait," etc.; but
he told exactly the truth; and though Gilbert scolded him for being so
impatient as not to wait, yet his telling the truth was more to the boy's
advantage than any excuse he could have made. After this he was always
believed when he said, "There was no answer," or, "They bid me not wait";
for Gilbert knew that he would not tell a lie to save himself from being
The orphans continued to assist one another in their work according to
their strength and abilities; and they went on in this manner for three
years. With what Mary got by her spinning and plain work, and Edmund by
leading of cart-horses, going on errands, etc., and with little Peggy and
Anne's earnings, the family contrived to live comfortably. Isabella and
Caroline often visited them, and sometimes gave them clothes, and
sometimes flax or cotton for their spinning and knitting; and these
children did not EXPECT, that because the ladies did something for them,
they should do everything. They did not grow idle or wasteful.
When Edmund was about twelve years old, his friend Gilbert sent for him
one day, and told him that his master had given him leave to have a boy
in the house to assist him, and that his master told him he might choose
one in the neighbourhood. Several were anxious to get into such a good
place: but Gilbert said that he preferred Edmund before them all,
because he knew him to be an industrious, honest, good natured lad, who
always told the truth. So Edmund went into service at the vicarage; and
his master was the father of Isabella and Caroline. He found his new way
of life very pleasant; for he was well fed, well clothed, and well
treated; and he every day learned more of his business, in which at first
he was rather awkward. He was mindful to do all that Mr. Gilbert
required of him; and he was so obliging to all his fellow-servants that
they could not help liking him. But there was one thing which was at
first rather disagreeable to him: he was obliged to wear shoes and
stockings, and they hurt his feet. Besides this, when he waited at
dinner he made such a noise in walking that his fellow-servants laughed
at him. He told his sister Mary of his distress, and she made for him,
after many trials, a pair of cloth shoes, with soles of platted hemp.*
In these he could walk without making the least noise; and as these shoes
could not be worn out of doors, he was always sure to change them before
he went out; and consequently he had always clean shoes to wear in the
[*The author has seen a pair of shoes, such as here described, made in a
It was soon remarked by the men-servants that he had left off clumping so
heavily, and it was observed by the maids that he never dirtied the
stairs or passages with his shoes. When he was praised for these things,
he said it was his sister Mary who should be thanked, and not he; and he
showed the shoes which she had made for him.
Isabella's maid bespoke a pair immediately, and sent Mary a piece of
pretty calico for the outside. The last-maker made a last for her, and
over this Mary sewed the calico vamps tight. Her brother advised her to
try platted packthread instead of hemp for the soles; and she found that
this looked more neat than the hemp soles, and was likely to last longer.
She platted the packthread together in strands of about half an inch
thick, and these were served firmly together at the bottom of the shoe.
When they were finished they fitted well, and the maid showed them to her
Isabella and Caroline were so well pleased with Mary's ingenuity and
kindness to her brother, that they bespoke from her two dozen of these
shoes, and gave her three yards of coloured fustian to make them of, and
galloon for the binding. When the shoes were completed, Isabella and
Caroline disposed of them for her amongst their acquaintance, and got
three shillings a pair for them. The young ladies, as soon as they had
collected the money, walked to the old castle, where they found
everything neat and clean as usual. They had great pleasure in giving to
this industrious girl the reward of her ingenuity, which she received
with some surprise and more gratitude. They advised her to continue the
shoemaking trade, as they found the shoes were liked, and they knew that
they could have a sale for them at the Repository in Dublin.
Mary, encouraged by these kind friends, went on with her little
manufacture with increased activity. Peggy and Anne platted the
packthread, and basted the vamps and linings together ready for her.
Edmund was allowed to come home for an hour every morning, provided he
was back again before eight o'clock. It was summer time, and he got up
early, because he liked to go home to see his sisters, and he took his
share in the manufactory. It was his business to hammer the soles flat:
and as soon as he came home every morning he performed his task with so
much cheerfulness and sang so merrily at his work, that the hour of his
arrival was always an hour of joy to the family.
Mary had presently employment enough upon her hands. Orders came to her
for shoes from many families in the neighbourhood, and she could not get
them finished fast enough. She, however, in the midst of her hurry,
found time to make a very pretty pair, with neat roses, as a present for
her schoolmistress, who, now that she saw her pupil in a good way of
business, consented to receive the amount of her old debt. Several of
the children who went to her school were delighted with the sight of
Mary's present, and went to the little manufactory at Rossmore Castle, to
find out how these shoes were made. Some went from curiosity, others
from idleness; but when they saw how happy the little shoemakers seemed
whilst busy at work, they longed to take some share in what was going
forward. One begged Mary to let her plat some packthread for the soles;
another helped Peggy and Anne to baste in the linings; and all who could
get employment were pleased, for the idle ones were shoved out of the
way. It became a custom with the children of the village to resort to
the old castle at their play hours; and it was surprising to see how much
was done by ten or twelve of them, each doing but a little at a time.
One morning Edmund and the little manufacturers were assembled very
early, and they were busy at their work, all sitting round the meal
chest, which served them for a table.
"My hands must be washed," said George, a little boy who came running in;
"I ran so fast that I might be in time, to go to work along with you all,
that I tumbled down, and look how I have dirtied my hands. Most haste
worst speed. My hands must be washed before I can do anything."
Whilst George was washing his hands, two other little children, who had
just finished their morning's work, came to him to beg that he would blow
some soap bubbles for them, and they were all three eagerly blowing
bubbles, and watching them mount into the air, when suddenly they were
startled by a noise as loud as thunder. They were in a sort of outer
court of the castle, next to the room in which all their companions were
at work, and they ran precipitately into the room, exclaiming, "Did you
hear that noise?"
"I thought I heard a clap of thunder," said Mary, "but why do you look so
As she finished speaking, another and a louder noise, and the walls round
about them shook. The children turned pale and stood motionless; but
Edmund threw down his hammer, and ran out to see what was the matter.
Mary followed him, and they saw that a great chimney of the old ruins at
the farthest side of the castle had fallen down, and this was the cause
of the prodigious noise.
The part of the castle in which they lived seemed, as Edmund said, to be
perfectly safe; but the children of the village were terrified, and
thinking that the whole would come tumbling down directly, they ran to
their homes as fast as they could. Edmund, who was a courageous lad, and
proud of showing his courage, laughed at their cowardice; but Mary, who
was very prudent, persuaded her brother to ask an experienced mason, who
was building at his master's, to come and give his opinion, whether their
part of the castle was safe to live in or not. The mason came, and gave
it as his opinion that the rooms they inhabited might last through the
winter but that no part of the ruins could stand another year. Mary was
sorry to leave a place of which she had grown fond, poor as it was,
having lived in it in peace and contentment ever since her mother's
death, which was now nearly four years; but she determined to look out
for some other place to live in; and she had now money enough to pay the
rent of a comfortable cabin. Without losing any time, she went to the
village that was at the end of the avenue leading to the vicarage, for
she wished to get a lodging in this village because it was so near to her
brother, and to the ladies who had been so kind to her. She found that
there was one newly built house in this village unoccupied; it belonged
to Mr. Harvey, her landlord, who was still in England; it was slated, and
neatly fitted up inside; but the rent of it was six guineas a year, and
this was far above what Mary could afford to pay. Three guineas a year
she thought was the highest rent for which she could venture to engage.
Besides, she heard that several proposals had been made to Mr. Harvey for
this house, and she knew that Mr. Hopkins, the agent, was not her friend;
therefore she despaired of getting it. There was no other to be had in
this village. Her brother was still more vexed than she was, that she
could not find a place near him. He offered to give a guinea yearly
towards the rent out of his wages; and Mr. Gilbert spoke about it for him
to the steward, and inquired whether, amongst any of those who had given
in proposals, there might not be one who would be content with a part of
the house, and who would join with Mary in paying the rent. None could
be found but a woman, who was a great scold, and a man who was famous for
going to law about every trifle with his neighbours. Mary did not choose
to have anything to do with these people. She did not like to speak
either to Miss Isabella or Caroline about it, because she was not of an
encroaching temper; and when they had done so much for her, she would
have been ashamed to beg for more. She returned home to the old castle,
mortified that she had no good news to tell Anne and Peggy, who she knew
expected to hear that she had found a nice house for them in the village
near their brother.
"Bad news for you, Peggy," cried she, as soon as she got home. "And bad
news for you, Mary," replied her sisters, who looked very sorrowful.
"What's the matter?"
"Your poor goat is dead," replied Peggy. "There she is, yonder, lying
under the great corner stone; you can just see her leg. We cannot lift
the stone from off her, it is so heavy. Betsy [one of the neighbour's
girls] says she remembers, when she came to us to work early this
morning, she saw the goat rubbing itself, and butting with its horns
against that old tottering chimney."
"Many's the time," said Mary, "that I have driven the poor thing away
from that place; I was always afraid she would shake that great ugly
stone down upon her at last."
The goat, who had long been the favourite of Mary and her sisters, was
lamented by them all. When Edmund came, he helped them to move the great
stone from off the poor animal, who was crushed so as to be a terrible
sight. As they were moving away this stone in order to bury the goat,
Anne found an odd-looking piece of money, which seemed neither like a
halfpenny, nor a shilling, nor a guinea.
"Here are more, a great many more of them," cried Peggy; and upon
searching amongst the rubbish, they discovered a small iron pot, which
seemed as if it had been filled with these coins, as a vast number of
them were found about the spot where it fell. On examining these coins,
Edmund thought that several of them looked like gold, and the girls
exclaimed with great joy--"Oh, Mary! Mary! this is come to us just in
right time--now you can pay for the slated house. Never was anything so
But Mary, though nothing could have pleased her better than to have been
able to pay for the house, observed that they could not honestly touch
any of this treasure, as it belonged to the owner of the castle. Edmund
agreed with her, that they ought to carry it all immediately to Mr.
Hopkins, the agent. Peggy and Anne were convinced by what Mary said, and
they begged to go along with her and their brother, to take the coins to
Mr. Hopkins. On their way they stopped at the vicarage, to show the
treasure to Mr. Gilbert, who took it to the young ladies, Isabella and
Caroline, and told them how it had been found.
It is not only by their superior riches, but it is yet more by their
superior knowledge, that persons in the higher rank of life may assist
those in a lower condition.
Isabella, who had some knowledge of chemistry, discovered, by touching
the coins with nitric acid, that several of them were of gold, and
consequently of great value. Caroline also found out that many of the
coins were very valuable as curiosities. She recollected her father's
having shown to her the prints of the coins at the end of each king's
reign, in "Rapin's History of England;" and upon comparing these
impressions with the coins found by the orphans, she perceived that many
of them were of the reign of Henry the Seventh, which, from their
scarcity, were highly appreciated by numismatic collectors.
Isabella and Caroline, knowing something of the character of Mr. Hopkins,
the agent, had the precaution to count the coins, and to mark each of
them with a cross, so small that it was scarcely visible to the naked
eye, though it was easily to be seen through a magnifying glass. They
also begged that their father, who was well acquainted with Mr. Harvey,
the gentleman to whom Rossmore Castle belonged, to write to him, and tell
him how well these orphans had behaved about the treasure which they had
found. The value of the coins was estimated at about thirty or forty
A few days after the fall of the chimney at Rossmore Castle, as Mary and
her sisters were sitting at their work, there came hobbling in an old
woman, leaning on a crab stick, that seemed to have been newly cut. She
had a broken tobacco-pipe in her mouth; her head was wrapped up in two
large red and blue handkerchiefs, with their crooked corners hanging far
down over the back of her neck, no shoes on her broad feet, nor stockings
on her many-coloured legs. Her petticoat was jagged at the bottom, and
the skirt of her gown turned up over her shoulders, to serve instead of a
cloak, which she had sold for whisky. This old woman was well known
amongst the country people by the name of Goody Grope:* because she had,
for many years, been in the habit of groping in old castles, and in
moats,** and at the bottom of a round tower*** in the neighbourhood, in
search of treasure. In her youth she had heard someone talking, in a
whisper, of an old prophecy, found in a bog, which said that before many
"St. Patrick's days should come about,
There would be found
A treasure under ground,
By one within twenty miles round."
This prophecy made a deep impression upon her. She also dreamed of it
three times: and as the dream, she thought, was a sure token that the
prophecy was to come true, she, from that time forwards, gave up her
spinning-wheel and her knitting, and could think of nothing but hunting
for the treasure, that was to be found by one "within twenty miles
[*Goody is not a word used in Ireland. Collyogh is the Irish appellation
of an old woman: but as Collyogh might sound strangely to English ears,
we have translated it by the word Goody.
**What are in Ireland called moats, are, in England, called Danish
mounds, or barrows.
***Near Kells, in Ireland, there is a round tower, which was in imminent
danger of being pulled down by an old woman's rooting at its foundation,
in hopes of finding treasure.]
Year after year St. Patrick's day came about, without her ever finding a
farthing by all her groping; and as she was always idle, she grew poorer
and poorer. Besides, to comfort herself for her disappointments, and to
give her spirits for fresh searches, she took to drinking. She sold all
she had by degrees; but still she fancied that the lucky day would come
sooner or later, THAT WOULD PAY FOR ALL.
Goody Grope, however, reached her sixtieth year, without ever seeing this
lucky day; and now, in her old age, she was a beggar, without a house to
shelter her, a bed to lie on, or food to put into her mouth, but what she
begged from the charity of those who had trusted more than she had to
industry and less to LUCK.
"Ah, Mary, honey! give me a potato and a sup of something, for the love
o' mercy; for not a bit have I had all day, except half a glass of whisky
and a halfpenny worth of tobacco!"
Mary immediately set before her some milk, and picked a good potato out
of the bowl for her. She was sorry to see such an old woman in such a
wretched condition. Goody Grope said she would rather have spirits of
some kind or other than milk; but Mary had no spirits to give her; so she
sat herself down close to the fire, and after she had sighed and groaned
and smoked for some time, she said to Mary, "Well, and what have you done
with the treasure you had the luck to find?" Mary told her that she had
carried it to Mr. Hopkins, the agent.
"That's not what I would have done in your place," replied the old woman.
"When good luck came to you, what a shame to turn your back upon it! But
it is idle talking of what's done--that's past; but I'll try my luck in
this here castle before next St. Patrick's day comes about. I was told
it was more than twenty miles from our bog or I would have been here long
ago; but better late than never."
Mary was much alarmed, and not without reason, at this speech; for she
knew that if Goody Grope once set to work at the foundation of the old
castle of Rossmore, she would soon bring it all down. It was in vain to
talk to Goody Grope of the danger of burying herself under the ruins, or
of the improbability of her meeting with another pot of gold coins. She
set her elbow upon her knees, and stopping her ears with her hands bid
Mary and her sisters not to waste their breath advising their elders; for
that, let them say what they would, she would fall to work the next
morning, "BARRING you'll make it worth my while to let it alone."
"And what will make it worth your while to let it alone?" said Mary; for
she saw that she must either get into a quarrel or give up her
habitation, or comply with the conditions of this provoking old woman.
Half a crown, Goody Grope said, was the least she could be content to
take. Mary paid the half-crown, and was in hopes that she had got rid
for ever of her tormentor, but she was mistaken, for scarcely was the
week at an end before the old woman appeared before her again, and
repeated her threats of falling to work the next morning, unless she had
something given to her to buy tobacco.
The next day and the next, and the next, Goody Grope came on the same
errand, and poor Mary, who could ill-afford to supply her constantly with
halfpence, at last exclaimed, "I am sure the finding of this treasure has
not been any good luck to us, but quite the contrary; and I wish we never
had found it."
Mary did not yet know how much she was to suffer on account of this
unfortunate pot of gold coins. Mr. Hopkins, the agent, imagined that no
one knew of the discovery of this treasure but himself and these poor
children; so, not being as honest as they were, he resolved to keep it
for his own use. He was surprised some weeks afterwards to receive a
letter from his employer, Mr. Harvey, demanding from him the coins which
had been discovered at Rossmore Castle. Hopkins had sold the gold coins,
and some of the others; and he flattered himself that the children, and
the young ladies, to whom he now found they had been shown, could not
tell whether what they had seen were gold or not, and he was not in the
least apprehensive that those of Henry the Seventh's reign should be
reclaimed from him as he thought they had escaped attention. So he sent
over the silver coins and others of little value, and apologized for his
not having mentioned them before, by saying that he considered them as
Mr. Harvey, in reply, observed that he could not consider as rubbish the
gold coins which were amongst them when they were discovered; and he
inquired why these gold coins, and those of the reign of Henry the
Seventh, were not now sent to him.
Mr. Hopkins denied that he had ever received any such; but he was
thunderstruck when Mr. Harvey, in reply to this falsehood, sent him a
list of the coins which the orphans had deposited with him, and exact
drawings of those that were missing. He informed him that this list and
these drawings came from two ladies who had seen the coins in question.
Mr. Hopkins thought that he had no means of escape but by boldly
persisting in falsehood. He replied, that it was very likely such coins
had been found at Rossmore Castle, and that the ladies alluded to had
probably seen them; but he positively declared that they never came to
his hands; that he had restored all that were deposited with him; and
that, as to the others, he supposed they must have been taken out of the
pot by the children, or by Edmund or Mary on their way from the ladies'
house to his.
The orphans were shocked and astonished when they heard, from Isabella
and Caroline, the charge that was made against them. They looked at one
another in silence for some moments. Then Peggy exclaimed--"Sure! Mr.
Hopkins has forgotten himself strangely. Does not he remember Edmund's
counting the things to him upon the great table in his hall, and we all
standing by! I remember it as well as if it was this instant."
"And so do I," cried Anne. "And don't you recollect, Mary, your picking
out the gold ones, and telling Mr. Hopkins that they were gold; and he
said you knew nothing of the matter; and I was going to tell him that
Miss Isabella had tried them, and knew that they were gold? but just then
there came in some tenants to pay their rent, and he pushed us out, and
twitched from my hand the piece of gold which I had taken up to show him
the bright spot which Miss Isabella had cleaned by the stuff that she had
poured on it? I believe he was afraid I should steal it; he twitched it
from my hand in such a hurry. Do, Edmund; do, Mary--let us go to him,
and put him in mind of all this."
"I'll go to him no more," said Edmund, sturdily. "He is a bad man--I'll
never go to him again. Mary, don't be cast down--we have no need to be
cast down--we are honest."
"True," said Mary; "but is not it a hard case that we, who have lived, as
my mother did all her life before us, in peace and honesty with all the
world, should now have our good name taken from us, when--" Mary's voice
faltered and stopped.
"It can't be taken from us," cried Edmund, "poor orphans though we are,
and he a rich gentleman, as he calls himself. Let him say and do what he
will, he can't hurt our good name."
Edmund was mistaken, alas! and Mary had but too much reason for her
fears. The affair was a great deal talked of; and the agent spared no
pains to have the story told his own way. The orphans, conscious of
their own innocence, took no pains about the matter; and the consequence
was, that all who knew them well had no doubt of their honesty; but many,
who knew nothing of them, concluded that the agent must be in the right
and the children in the wrong. The buzz of scandal went on for some time
without reaching their ears, because they lived very retiredly. But one
day, when Mary went to sell some stockings of Peggy's knitting at the
neighbouring fair, the man to whom she sold them bid her write her name
on the back of a note, and exclaimed, on seeing it--"Ho! ho! mistress;
I'd not have had any dealings with you, had I known your name sooner.
Where's the gold that you found at Rossmore Castle?"
It was in vain that Mary related the fact. She saw that she gained no
belief, as her character was not known to this man, or to any of those
who were present. She left the fair as soon as she could; and though she
struggled against it, she felt very melancholy. Still she exerted
herself every day at her little manufacture; and she endeavoured to
console herself by reflecting that she had two friends left who would not
give up her character, and who continued steadily to protect her and her
Isabella and Caroline everywhere asserted their belief in the integrity
of the orphans, but to prove it was in this instance out of their power.
Mr. Hopkins, the agent, and his friends, constantly repeated that the
gold coins were taken away in coming from their house to his; and these
ladies were blamed by many people for continuing to countenance those
that were, with great reason, suspected to be thieves. The orphans were
in a worse condition than ever when the winter came on, and their
benefactresses left the country to spend some months in Dublin. The old
castle, it was true, was likely to last through the winter, as the mason
said; but though the want of a comfortable house to live in was, a little
while ago, the uppermost thing in Mary's thoughts, now it was not so.
One night as Mary was going to bed, she heard someone knocking hard at
the door. "Mary, are you up? let us in," cried a voice, which she knew
to be the voice of Betsy Green, the postmaster's daughter, who lived in
the village near them.
She let Betsy in, and asked what she could want at such a time of night.
"Give me sixpence, and I'll tell you," said Betsy; "but waken Anne and
Peggy. Here's a letter just come by post for you, and I stepped over to
you with it; because I guessed you'd be glad to have it, seeing it is
your brother's handwriting."
Peggy and Anne were soon roused, when they heard that there was a letter
from Edmund. It was by one of his rush candles that Mary read it; and
the letter was as follows:--
"DEAR MARY, NANCY, AND LITTLE PEG,--
"Joy! joy!--I always said the truth would come out at last; and that he
could not take our good name from us. But I will not tell you how it all
came about till we meet, which will be next week, as we are (I mean,
master and mistress, and the young ladies--bless them!--and Mr. Gilbert
and I) coming down to the vicarage to keep Christmas; and a happy
Christmas 'tis likely to be for honest folks. As for they that are not
honest, it is not for them to expect to be happy, at Christmas, or any
other time. You shall know all when we meet. So, till then, fare ye
well, dear Mary, Nancy, and little Peg.
"Your joyful and affectionate brother, EDMUND."
To comprehend why Edmund is joyful, our readers must be informed of
certain things which happened after Isabella and Caroline went to Dublin.
One morning they went with their father and mother to see the magnificent
library of a nobleman, who took generous and polite pleasure in thus
sharing the advantages of his wealth and station with all who had any
pretensions to science or literature. Knowing that the gentleman who was
now come to see his library was skilled in antiquities, the nobleman
opened a drawer of medals, to ask his opinion concerning the age of some
coins, which he had lately purchased at a high price. They were the very
same which the orphans had found at Rossmore Castle. Isabella and
Caroline knew them again instantly; and as the cross which Isabella had
made on each of them was still visible through a magnifying glass, there
could be no possibility of doubt.
The nobleman, who was much interested both by the story of these orphans,
and the manner in which it was told to him, sent immediately for the
person from whom he had purchased the coins. He was a Jew broker. At
first he refused to tell them from whom he got them, because he had
bought them, he said, under a promise of secrecy. Being further pressed,
he acknowledged that it was made a condition in his bargain that he
should not sell them to anyone in Ireland, but that he had been tempted
by the high price the present noble possessor had offered.
At last, when the Jew was informed that the coins were stolen, and that
he would be proceeded against as a receiver of stolen goods, if he did
not confess the whole truth, he declared that he had purchased them from
a gentleman, whom he had never seen before or since; but he added, that
he could swear to his person, if he saw him again.
Now, Mr. Hopkins, the agent, was at this time in Dublin, and Caroline's
father posted the Jew, the next day, in the back-parlour of a banker's
house, with whom Mr. Hopkins had, on this day, appointed to settle some
accounts. Mr. Hopkins came--the Jew knew him--swore that he was the man
who had sold the coins to him; and thus the guilt of the agent and the
innocence of the orphans were completely proved.
A full account of all that happened was sent to England to Mr. Harvey,
their landlord, and a few posts afterwards there came a letter from him,
containing a dismissal of the dishonest agent, and a reward for the
honest and industrious orphans. Mr. Harvey desired that Mary and her
sisters might have the slated house, rent free, from this time forward,
under the care of ladies Isabella and Caroline, as long as Mary or her
sisters should carry on in it any useful business. This was the joyful
news which Edmund had to tell his sisters.
All the neighbours shared in their joy, and the day of their removal from
the ruins of Rossmore Castle to their new house was the happiest of the
Christmas holidays. They were not envied for their prosperity; because
everybody saw that it was the reward of their good conduct; everybody
except Goody Grope. She exclaimed, as she wrung her hands with violent
expressions of sorrow--"Bad luck to me! bad luck to me!--Why didn't I go
sooner to that there castle? It is all luck, all luck in this world; but
I never had no luck. Think of the luck of these childer, that have found
a pot of gold, and such great, grand friends, and a slated house, and
all: and here am I, with scarce a rag to cover me, and not a potato to
put into my mouth!--I, that have been looking under ground all my days
for treasure, not to have a halfpenny at the last, to buy me tobacco!"
"That is the very reason that you have not a halfpenny," said Betsy.
"Here Mary has been working hard, and so have her two little sisters and
her brother, for these five years past; and they have made money for
themselves by their own industry--and friends too--not by luck, but by--"
"Phoo! phoo!" interrupted Goody Grope; "don't be prating; don't I know as
well as you do, that they found a pot of gold, BY GOOD LUCK? and is not
that the cause why they are going to live in a slated house now?"
"No," replied the postmaster's daughter; "this house is given to them AS
A REWARD--that was the word in the letter; for I saw it. Edmund showed
it to me, and will show it to anyone that wants to see. This house was
given to them 'AS A REWARD FOR THEIR HONESTY.'"
In the pleasant valley of Ashton there lived an elderly woman of the name
of Preston. She had a small neat cottage, and there was not a weed to be
seen in her garden. It was upon her garden that she chiefly depended for
support; it consisted of strawberry beds, and one small border for
flowers. The pinks and roses she tied up in nice nosegays, and sent
either to Clifton or Bristol to be sold. As to her strawberries, she did
not send them to market, because it was the custom for numbers of people
to come from Clifton, in the summer time, to eat strawberries and cream
at the gardens in Ashton.
Now, the widow Preston was so obliging, active and good-humoured, that
everyone who came to see her was pleased. She lived happily in this
manner for several years; but, alas! one autumn she fell sick, and,
during her illness, everything went wrong; her garden was neglected, her
cow died, and all the money which she had saved was spent in paying for
medicines. The winter passed away, while she was so weak that she could
earn but little by her work; and when the summer came, her rent was
called for, and the rent was not ready in her little purse as usual. She
begged a few months' delay, and they were granted to her; but at the end
of that time there was no resource but to sell her horse Lightfoot. Now
Lightfoot, though perhaps he had seen his best days, was a very great
favourite. In his youth he had always carried the dame to the market
behind her husband; and it was now her little son Jem's turn to ride him.
It was Jem's business to feed Lightfoot, and to take care of him--a
charge which he never neglected, for, besides being a very good natured,
he was a very industrious boy.
"It will go near to break my Jem's heart," said Dame Preston to herself,
as she sat one evening beside the fire stirring the embers, and
considering how she had best open the matter to her son, who stood
opposite to her, eating a dry crust of bread very heartily for supper.
"Jem," said the old woman, "what, ar't hungry?"
"That I am, brave and hungry!"
"Ay! no wonder, you've been brave hard at work--Eh?"
"Brave hard! I wish it was not so dark, mother, that you might just step
out and see the great bed I've dug; I know you'd say it was no bad day's
work--and oh, mother! I've good news: Farmer Truck will give us the
giant strawberries, and I'm to go for 'em tomorrow morning, and I'll be
back afore breakfast."
"God bless the boy! how he talks!--Four mile there, and four mile back
again, afore breakfast."
"Ay, upon Lightfoot, you know, mother, very easily; mayn't I?"
"Why do you sigh, mother?"
"Finish thy supper, child."
"I've done!" cried Jem, swallowing the last mouthful hastily, as if he
thought he had been too long at supper--"and now for the great needle; I
must see and mend Lightfoot's bridle afore I go to bed."
To work he set, by the light of the fire, and the dame having once more
stirred it, began again with "Jem, dear, does he go lame at all now?"
"What, Lightfoot! Oh, la, no, not he--never was so well of his lameness
in all his life. He's grown quite young again, I think, and then he's so
fat he can hardly wag."
"God bless him--that's right. We must see, Jem, and keep him fat."
"For what, mother?"
"For Monday fortnight at the fair. He's to be--sold!"
"Lightfoot!" cried Jem, and let the bridle fall from his hand; "and WILL
mother sell Lightfoot?"
"WILL? no: but I MUST, Jem."
"MUST! who says you MUST? why MUST you, mother?"
"I must, I say, child. Why, must not I pay my debts honestly; and must
not I pay my rent, and was not it called for long and long ago; and have
not I had time; and did not I promise to pay it for certain Monday
fortnight, and am not I two guineas short; and where am I to get two
guineas? So what signifies talking, child?" said the widow, leaning her
head upon her arm. "Lightfoot MUST go."
Jem was silent for a few minutes--"Two guineas, that's a great, great
deal. If I worked, and worked, and worked ever so hard, I could no ways
earn two guineas AFORE Monday fortnight--could I, mother?"
"Lord help thee, no; not an' work thyself to death."
"But I could earn something, though, I say," cried Jem, proudly; "and I
WILL earn SOMETHING--if it be ever so little, it will be SOMETHING--and I
shall do my very best; so I will."
"That I'm sure of, my child," said his mother, drawing him towards her
and kissing him; "you were always a good, industrious lad, THAT I will
say afore your face or behind your back;--but it won't do now--Lightfoot
Jem turned away struggling to hide his tears, and went to bed without
saying a word more. But he knew that crying would do no good; so he
presently wiped his eyes, and lay awake, considering what he could
possibly do to save the horse. "If I get ever so little," he still said
to himself, "it will be SOMETHING; and who knows but landlord might then
wait a bit longer? and we might make it all up in time; for a penny a day
might come to two guineas in time."
But how to get the first penny was the question. Then he recollected
that one day, when he had been sent to Clifton to sell some flowers, he
had seen an old woman with a board beside her covered with various
sparkling stones, which people stopped to look at as they passed, and he
remembered that some people bought the stones; one paid twopence, another
threepence, and another sixpence for them; and Jem heard her say that she
got them amongst the neighbouring rocks: so he thought that if he tried
he might find some too, and sell them as she had done.
Early in the morning he wakened full of this scheme, jumped up, dressed
himself, and, having given one look at poor Lightfoot in his stable, set
off to Clifton in search of the old woman, to inquire where she found her
sparkling stones. But it was too early in the morning, the old woman was
not at her seat; so he turned back again, disappointed. He did not waste
his time waiting for her, but saddled and bridled Lightfoot, and went to
Farmer Truck's for the giant strawberries.
A great part of the morning was spent in putting them into the ground;
and, as soon as that was finished, he set out again in quest of the old
woman, whom, to his great joy, he spied sitting at her corner of the
street with her board before her. But this old woman was deaf and cross;
and when at last Jem made her hear his questions, he could get no answer
from her, but that she found the fossils where he would never find any
more. "But can't I look where you looked?"
"Look away, nobody hinders you," replied the old woman; and these were
the only words she would say.
Jem was not, however, a boy to be easily discouraged; he went to the
rocks, and walked slowly along, looking at all the stones as he passed.
Presently he came to a place where a number of men were at work loosening
some large rocks, and one amongst the workmen was stooping down looking
for something very eagerly; Jem ran up, and asked if he could help him.
"Yes," said the man, "you can; I've just dropped, amongst this heap of
rubbish, a fine piece of crystal that I got to-day."
"What kind of a looking thing is it?" said Jem.
"White, and like glass," said the man, and went on working whilst Jem
looked very carefully over the heap of rubbish for a great while.
"Come," said the man, "it's gone for ever; don't trouble yourself any
more, my boy."
"It's no trouble; I'll look a little longer; we'll not give it up so
soon," said Jem; and after he had looked a little longer, he found the
piece of crystal.
"Thank'e," said the man, "you are a fine little industrious fellow."
Jem, encouraged by the tone of voice in which the man spoke this,
ventured to ask him the same questions which he had asked the old woman.
"One good turn deserves another," said the man; "we are going to dinner
just now, and shall leave off work--wait for me here, and I'll make it
worth your while."
Jem waited; and, as he was very attentively observing how the workmen
went on with their work, he heard somebody near him give a great yawn,
and, turning round, he saw stretched upon the grass, beside the river, a
boy about his own age, who, in the village of Ashton, as he knew, went by
the name of Lazy Lawrence--a name which he most justly deserved, for he
never did anything from morning to night. He neither worked nor played,
but sauntered or lounged about restless and yawning. His father was an
ale-house keeper, and being generally drunk, could take no care of his
son; so that Lazy Lawrence grew every day worse and worse. However, some
of the neighbours said that he was a good natured, poor fellow enough,
and would never do anyone harm but himself; whilst others, who were
wiser, often shook their heads, and told him that idleness was the root
of all evil.
"What, Lawrence!" cried Jem to him, when he saw him lying upon the grass;
"what, are you asleep?"
"Are you awake?"
"What are you doing there?"
"What are you thinking of?"
"What makes you lie there?"
"I don't know--because I can't find anybody to play with me to-day. Will
you come and play?"
"No, I can't; I'm busy."
"Busy," cried Lawrence, stretching himself, "you are always busy. I
would not be you for the world, to have so much to do always."
"And I," said Jem, laughing, "would not be you for the world, to have
nothing to do."
They then parted, for the workman just then called Jem to follow him. He
took him home to his own house, and showed him a parcel of fossils, which
he had gathered, he said, on purpose to sell, but had never had time
enough to sell them. Now, however, he set about the task; and having
picked out those which he judged to be the best, he put them in a small
basket, and gave them to Jem to sell, upon condition that he should bring
him half of what he got. Jem, pleased to be employed, was ready to agree
to what the man proposed, provided his mother had no objection. When he
went home to dinner, he told his mother his scheme, and she smiled, and
said he might do as he pleased; for she was not afraid of his being from
home. "You are not an idle boy," said she; "so there is little danger of
your getting into any mischief."
Accordingly Jem that evening took his stand, with his little basket, upon
the bank of the river, just at the place where people land from a ferry-
boat, and the walk turns to the wells, and numbers of people perpetually
pass to drink the waters. He chose his place well, and waited nearly all
the evening, offering his fossils with great assiduity to every
passenger; but not one person bought any.
"Hallo!" cried some sailors, who had just rowed a boat to land, "bear a
hand here, will you, my little fellow, and carry these parcels for us
into yonder house?"
Jem ran down immediately for the parcels, and did what he was asked to do
so quickly, and with so much good-will, that the master of the boat took
notice of him, and, when he was going away, stopped to ask him what he
had got in his little basket; and when he saw that they were fossils, he
immediately told Jem to follow him, for that he was going to carry some
shells he had brought from abroad to a lady in the neighbourhood who was
making a grotto. "She will very likely buy your stones into the bargain.
Come along, my lad; we can but try."
The lady lived but a very little way off, so that they were soon at her
house. She was alone in her parlour, and was sorting a bundle of
feathers of different colours; they lay on a sheet of pasteboard upon a
window seat, and it happened that as the sailor was bustling round the
table to show off his shells, he knocked down the sheet of pasteboard,
and scattered all the feathers. The lady looked very sorry, which Jem
observing, he took the opportunity, whilst she was busy looking over the
sailor's bag of shells, to gather together all the feathers, and sort
them according to their different colours, as he had seen them sorted
when he first came into the room.
"Where is the little boy you brought with you? I thought I saw him here
"And here I am, ma'am," cried Jem, creeping from under the table, with
some few remaining feathers which he had picked from the carpet; "I
thought," added he, pointing to the others, "I had better be doing
something than standing idle, ma'am." She smiled, and, pleased with his
activity and simplicity, began to ask him several questions; such as who
he was, where he lived, what employment he had, and how much a day he
earned by gathering fossils.
"This is the first day I ever tried," said Jem; "I never sold any yet,
and if you don't buy 'em now, ma'am, I'm afraid nobody else will; for
I've asked everybody else."
"Come, then," said the lady, laughing, "if that is the case, I think I
had better buy them all." So, emptying all the fossils out of his
basket, she put half a crown into it.
Jem's eyes sparkled with joy. "Oh, thank you, ma'am," said he, "I will
be sure and bring you as many more, to-morrow."
"Yes, but I don't promise you," said she, "to give you half a crown, to-
"But, perhaps, though you don't promise it, you will."
"No," said the lady, "do not deceive yourself; I assure you that I will
not. THAT, instead of encouraging you to be industrious, would teach you
to be idle."
Jem did not quite understand what she meant by this, but answered, "I'm
sure I don't wish to be idle; what I want is to earn something every day,
if I know how; I'm sure I don't wish to be idle. If you knew all, you'd
know I did not."
"How do you mean, IF I KNEW ALL?"
"Why, I mean, if you knew about Lightfoot."
"Why, mammy's horse," added Jem, looking out of the window; "I must make
haste home, and feed him afore it gets dark; he'll wonder what's gone
"Let him wonder a few minutes longer," said the lady, "and tell me the
rest of your story."
"I've no story, ma'am, to tell, but as how mammy says he must go to the
fair Monday fortnight, to be sold, if she can't get the two guineas for
her rent; and I should be main sorry to part with him, for I love him,
and he loves me; so I'll work for him, I will, all I can. To be sure, as
mammy says, I have no chance, such a little fellow as I am, of earning
two guineas afore Monday fortnight."
"But are you willing earnestly to work?" said the lady; "you know there
is a great deal of difference between picking up a few stones, and
working steadily every day, and all day long."
"But," said Jem, "I would work every day, and all day long."
"Then," said the lady, "I will give you work. Come here, to-morrow
morning, and my gardener will set you to weed the shrubberies, and I will
pay you sixpence a day. Remember, you must be at the gates by six
o'clock." Jem bowed, thanked her, and went away.
It was late in the evening, and Jem was impatient to get home to feed
Lightfoot; yet he recollected that he had promised the man who had
trusted him to sell the fossils, that he would bring him half of what he
got for them; so he thought that he had better go to him directly; and
away he went, running along by the waterside about a quarter of a mile,
till he came to the man's house. He was just come home from work, and
was surprised when Jem showed him the half-crown, saying, "Look what I
got for the stones; you are to have half, you know."
"No," said the man, when he had heard his story, "I shall not take half
of that; it was given to you. I expected but a shilling at the most, and
the half of that is but sixpence, and that I'll take. Wife, give the lad
two shillings, and take this half-crown." So the wife opened an old
glove, and took out two shillings; and the man, as she opened the glove,
put in his fingers, and took out a little silver penny. "There, he shall
have that into the bargain for his honesty--honesty is the best policy--
there's a lucky penny for you, that I've kept ever since I can remember."
"Don't you ever go to part with it, do ye hear!" cried the woman.
"Let him do what he will with it, wife," said the man.
"But," argued the wife, "another penny would do just as well to buy
gingerbread; and that's what it will go for."
"No, that it shall not, I promise you," said Jem; and so he ran away
home, fed Lightfoot, stroked him, went to bed, jumped up at five o'clock
in the morning, and went singing to work as gay as a lark.
Four days he worked "every day and all day long"; and every evening the
lady, when she came out to walk in her gardens, looked at his work. At
last she said to her gardener, "This little boy works very hard."
"Never had so good a little boy about the grounds," said the gardener;
"he's always at his work, let me come by when I will, and he has got
twice as much done as another would do; yes, twice as much, ma'am; for
look here--he began at this 'ere rose-bush, and now he's got to where you
stand, ma'am; and here is the day's work that t'other boy, and he's three
years older too, did to-day--I say, measure Jem's fairly, and it's twice
as much, I'm sure."
"Well," said the lady to her gardener, "show me how much is a fair day's
work for a boy of his age."
"Come at six o'clock and go at six? why, about this much, ma'am," said
the gardener, marking off a piece of the border with his spade.
"Then, little boy," said the lady, "so much shall be your task every day.
The gardener will mark it off for you; and when you've done, the rest of
the day you may do what you please."
Jem was extremely glad of this; and the next day he had finished his task
by four o'clock; so that he had all the rest of the evening to himself.
He was as fond of play as any little boy could be; and when he was at it
he played with all the eagerness and gaiety imaginable; so as soon as he
had finished his task, fed Lightfoot, and put by the sixpence he had
earned that day, he ran to the playground in the village, where he found
a party of boys playing, and amongst them Lazy Lawrence, who indeed was
not playing, but lounging upon a gate, with his thumb in his mouth. The
rest were playing at cricket. Jem joined them, and was the merriest and
most active amongst them; till, at last, when quite out of breath with
running, he was obliged to give up to rest himself, and sat down upon the
stile, close to the gate on which Lazy Lawrence was swinging.
"And why don't you play, Lawrence?" said he.
"I'm tired," said Lawrence.
"Tired of what?"
"I don't know well what tires me; grandmother says I'm ill, and I must
take something--I don't know what ails me."
"Oh, pugh! take a good race--one, two, three, and away--and you'll find
yourself as well as ever. Come, run--one, two, three, and away."
"Ah, no, I can't run, indeed," said he, hanging back heavily; "you know I
can play all day long if I like it, so I don't mind play as you do, who
have only one hour for it."
"So much the worse for you. Come, now, I'm quite fresh again, will you
have one game at ball? do."
"No, I tell you I can't; I'm as tired as if I had been working all day
long as hard as a horse."
"Ten times more," said Jem, "for I have been working all day long, as
hard as a horse, and yet you see I'm not a bit tired, only a little out
of breath just now."
"That's very odd," said Lawrence, and yawned, for want of some better
answer; then taking out a handful of halfpence,--"See what I got from
father today, because I asked him just at the right time, when he had
drunk a glass or two; then I can get anything I want out of him--see! a
penny, twopence, threepence, fourpence--there's eightpence in all; would
not you be happy if you had EIGHTPENCE?"
"Why, I don't know," said Jem, laughing, "for you don't seem happy, and
you HAVE EIGHTPENCE."
"That does not signify, though. I'm sure you only say that because you
envy me. You don't know what it is to have eightpence. You never had
more than twopence or threepence at a time in all your life."
Jem smiled. "Oh, as to that," said he, "you are mistaken, for I have at
this very time more than twopence, threepence, or eightpence either. I
have--let me--see--stones, two shillings; then five days' work--that's
five sixpences, that's two shillings and sixpence; in all, makes four
shillings and sixpence; and my silver penny, is four and sevenpence--four
"You have not!" said Lawrence, roused so as absolutely to stand upright,
"four and sevenpence, have you? Show it me, and then I'll believe you."
"Follow me, then," cried Jem, "and I'll soon make you believe me; come."
"Is it far?" said Lawrence, following half-running, half-hobbling, till
he came to the stable, where Jem showed him his treasure. "And how did
you come by it--honestly?"
"Honestly! to be sure I did; I earned it all."
"Lord bless me, earned it! well, I've a great mind to work; but then it's
such hot weather, besides, grandmother says I'm not strong enough yet for
hard work; and besides, I know how to coax daddy out of money when I want
it, so I need not work. But four and sevenpence; let's see, what will
you do with it all?"
"That's a secret," said Jem, looking great.
"I can guess; I know what I'd do with it if it was mine. First, I'd buy
pocketfuls of gingerbread; then I'd buy ever so many apples and nuts.
Don't you love nuts? I'd buy nuts enough to last me from this time to
Christmas, and I'd make little Newton crack 'em for me, for that's the
worst of nuts; there's the trouble of cracking 'em."
"Well, you never deserve to have a nut."
"But you'll give me some of yours," said Lawrence, in a fawning tone; for
he thought it easier to coax than to work--"you'll give me some of your
good things, won't you?"
"I shall not have any of those good things," said Jem.
"Then, what will you do with all your money?"
"Oh, I know very well what to do with it; but, as I told you, that's a
secret, and I sha'n't tell it anybody. Come now, let's go back and play-
-their game's up, I daresay."
Lawrence went back with him, full of curiosity, and out of humour with
himself and his eightpence. "If I had four and sevenpence," said he to
himself, "I certainly should be happy!"
The next day, as usual, Jem jumped up before six o'clock and went to his
work, whilst Lazy Lawrence sauntered about without knowing what to do
with himself. In the course of two days he laid out sixpence of his
money in apples and gingerbread; and as long as these lasted, he found
himself well received by his companions; but, at length the third day he
spent his last halfpenny, and when it was gone, unfortunately some nuts
tempted him very much, but he had no money to pay for them; so he ran
home to coax his father, as he called it.
When he got home he heard his father talking very loud, and at first he
thought he was drunk; but when he opened the kitchen door, he saw that he
was not drunk, but angry.
"You lazy dog!" cried he, turning suddenly upon Lawrence, and gave him
such a violent box on the ear as made the light flash from his eyes; "you
lazy dog! See what you've done for me--look!--look, look, I say!"
Lawrence looked as soon as he came to the use of his senses, and with
fear, amazement and remorse, beheld at least a dozen bottles burst, and
the fine Worcestershire cider streaming over the floor.
"Now, did not I order you three days ago to carry these bottles to the
cellar, and did not I charge you to wire the corks? answer me, you lazy
rascal; did not I?"
"Yes," said Lawrence, scratching his head.
"And why was not it done, I ask you?" cried his father, with renewed
anger, as another bottle burst at the moment. "What do you stand there
for, you lazy brat? why don't you move, I say? No, no," catching hold of
him, "I believe you can't move; but I'll make you." And he shook him
till Lawrence was so giddy he could not stand. "What had you to think
of? What had you to do all day long that you could not carry my cider,
my Worcestershire cider, to the cellar when I bid you? But go, you'll
never be good for anything; you are such a lazy rascal--get out of my
sight!" So saying, he pushed him out of the house door, and Lawrence
sneaked off, seeing that this was no time to make his petition for
The next day he saw the nuts again, and wishing for them more than ever,
he went home, in hopes that his father, as he said to himself, would be
in a better humour. But the cider was still fresh in his recollection;
and the moment Lawrence began to whisper the word "halfpenny" in his ear,
his father swore, with a loud oath, "I will not give you a halfpenny, no,
not a farthing, for a month to come. If you want money, go work for it;
I've had enough of your laziness--go work!"
At these terrible words Lawrence burst into tears, and, going to the side
of a ditch, sat down and cried for an hour; and when he had cried till he
could cry no more, he exerted himself so far as to empty his pockets, to
see whether there might not happen to be one halfpenny left; and, to his
great joy, in the farthest corner of his pocket one halfpenny was found.
With this he proceeded to the fruit woman's stall. She was busy weighing
out some plums, so he was obliged to wait; and whilst he was waiting he
heard some people near him talking and laughing very loud.
The fruit woman's stall was at the gate of an inn yard; and peeping
through the gate in this yard, Lawrence saw a postilion and a stable boy,
about his own size, playing at pitch farthing. He stood by watching them
for a few minutes. "I began but with one halfpenny," cried the stable
boy, with an oath, "and now I've got twopence!" added he, jingling the
halfpence in his waistcoat pocket. Lawrence was moved at the sound, and
said to himself, "If _I_ begin with one halfpenny I may end, like him,
with having twopence; and it is easier to play at pitch farthing than to
So he stepped forward, presenting his halfpenny, offering to toss up with
the stable boy, who, after looking him full in the face, accepted the
proposal, and threw his halfpenny into the air. "Head or tail?" cried
he. "Head," replied Lawrence, and it came up head. He seized the penny,
surprised at his own success, and would have gone instantly to have laid
it out in nuts; but the stable boy stopped him, and tempted him to throw
again. This time Lawrence lost; he threw again and won; and so he went
on, sometimes losing, but most frequently winning, till half the morning
was lost. At last, however, finding himself the master of three
halfpence, said he would play no more.
The stable boy, grumbling, swore he would have his revenge another time,
and Lawrence went and bought his nuts. "It is a good thing," said he to
himself, "to play at pitch farthing; the next time I want a halfpenny
I'll not ask my father for it, nor go to work neither." Satisfied with
this resolution, he sat down to crack his nuts at his leisure, upon the
horse block in the inn yard. Here, whilst he ate, he overheard the
conversation of the stable boys and postilions. At first their shocking
oaths and loud wrangling frightened and shocked him; for Lawrence, though
lazy, had not yet learned to be a wicked boy. But, by degrees, he was
accustomed to the swearing and quarrelling, and took a delight and
interest in their disputes and battles. As this was an amusement which
he could enjoy without any sort of exertion, he soon grew so fond of it,
that every day he returned to the stable yard, and the horse block became
his constant seat. Here he found some relief from the insupportable
fatigue of doing nothing, and here, hour after hour, with his elbows on
his knees, and his head on his hands, he sat, the spectator of
wickedness. Gaming, cheating and lying soon became familiar to him; and,
to complete his ruin, he formed a sudden and close intimacy with the
stable boy (a very bad boy) with whom he had first begun to game.
The consequences of this intimacy we shall presently see. But it is now
time to inquire what little Jem had been doing all this while.
One day, after Jem had finished his task, the gardener asked him to stay
a little while, to help him to carry some geranium pots into the hall.
Jem, always active and obliging, readily stayed from play, and was
carrying in a heavy flower pot, when his mistress crossed the hall.
"What a terrible litter!" said she, "you are making here--why don't you
wipe your shoes upon the mat?" Jem turned to look for the mat, but he
saw none. "Oh," said the lady recollecting herself, "I can't blame you,
for there is no mat."
"No, ma'am," said the gardener, "nor I don't know when, if ever, the man
will bring home those mats you bespoke, ma'am."
"I am very sorry to hear that," said the lady; "I wish we could find
somebody who would do them, if he can't. I should not care what sort of
mats they were, so that one could wipe one's feet on them."
Jem, as he was sweeping away the litter, when he heard these last words,
said to himself, "Perhaps I could make a mat." And all the way home, as
he trudged along whistling, he was thinking over a scheme for making
mats, which, however bold it may appear, he did not despair of executing,
with patience and industry. Many were the difficulties which his
"prophetic eye" foresaw; but he felt within himself that spirit which
spurs men on to great enterprises, and makes them "trample on
impossibilities." In the first place, he recollected that he had seen
Lazy Lawrence, whilst he lounged upon the gate, twist a bit of heath into
different shapes; and he thought, that if he could find some way of
plaiting heath firmly together, it would make a very pretty green soft
mat, which would do very well for one to wipe one's shoes on. About a
mile from his mother's house, on the common which Jem rode over when he
went to Farmer Truck's for the giant strawberries, he remembered to have
seen a great quantity of this heath; and, as it was now only six o'clock
in the evening, he knew that he should have time to feed Lightfoot,
stroke him, go to the common, return, and make one trial of his skill
before he went to bed.
Lightfoot carried him swiftly to the common, and there Jem gathered as
much of the heath as he thought he should want. But what toil! what
time! what pains did it cost him, before he could make anything like a
mat! Twenty times he was ready to throw aside the heath, and give up his
project, from impatience of repeated disappointments. But still he
persevered. Nothing TRULY GREAT can be accomplished without toil and
time. Two hours he worked before he went to bed. All his play hours the
next day he spent at his mat; which, in all, made five hours of fruitless
attempts. The sixth, however, repaid him for the labours of the other
five. He conquered his grand difficulty of fastening the heath
substantially together, and at length completely finished a mat, which
far surpassed his most sanguine expectations. He was extremely happy--
sang, danced round it--whistled--looked at it again and again, and could
hardly leave off looking at it when it was time to go to bed. He laid it
by his bedside, that he might see it the moment he awoke in the morning.
And now came the grand pleasure of carrying it to his mistress. She
looked fully as much surprised as he expected, when she saw it, and when
she heard who made it. After having duly admired it, she asked how much
he expected for his mat. "Expect!--Nothing, ma'am," said Jem; "I meant
to give it you, if you'd have it; I did not mean to sell it. I made it
in my play hours, I was very happy in making it; and I'm very glad, too,
that you like it; and if you please to keep it, ma'am, that's all."
"But that's not all," said the lady. "Spend your time no more in weeding
in my garden, you can employ yourself much better; you shall have the
reward of your ingenuity as well as of your industry. Make as many more
such mats as you can, and I will take care and dispose of them for you."
"Thank'e, ma'am," said Jem, making his best bow, for he thought by the
lady's looks that she meant to do him a favour, though he repeated to
himself, "Dispose of them, what does that mean?"
The next day he went to work to make more mats, and he soon learned to
make them so well and quickly, that he was surprised at his own success.
In every one he made he found less difficulty, so that, instead of making
two, he could soon make four in a day. In a fortnight he made eighteen.
It was Saturday night when he finished, and he carried, at three
journeys, his eighteen mats to his mistress' house; piled them all up in
the hall, and stood with his hat off, with a look of proud humility,
beside the pile, waiting for his mistress' appearance. Presently a
folding-door, at one end of the hall, opened, and he saw his mistress,
with a great many gentlemen and ladies, rising from several tables.
"Oh! there is my little boy and his mats," cried the lady; and, followed
by all the rest of the company, she came into the hall. Jem modestly
retired whilst they looked at his mats; but in a minute or two his
mistress beckoned to him, and when he came into the middle of the circle,
he saw that his pile of mats had disappeared.
"Well," said the lady, smiling, "what do you see that makes you look so
"That all my mats are gone," said Jem; "but you are very welcome."
"Are we?" said the lady, "well, take up your hat and go home then, for
you see that it is getting late, and you know Lightfoot will wonder
what's become of you." Jem turned round to take up his hat, which he had
left on the floor.
But how his countenance changed! the hat was heavy with shillings.
Everyone who had taken a mat had put in two shillings; so that for the
eighteen mats he had got thirty-six shillings. "Thirty-six shillings,"
said the lady; "five and sevenpence I think you told me you had earned
already--how much does that make? I must add, I believe, one other
sixpence to make out your two guineas."
"Two guineas!" exclaimed Jem, now quite conquering his bashfulness, for
at the moment he forgot where he was, and saw nobody that was by. "Two
guineas!" cried he, clapping his hands together,--"O, Lightfoot! O,
mother!" Then, recollecting himself, he saw his mistress, whom he now
looked up to quite as a friend. "Will YOU thank them all?" said he,
scarcely daring to glance his eyes round upon the company; "will YOU
thank 'em, for you know I don't know how to thank 'em RIGHTLY."
Everybody thought, however, that they had been thanked RIGHTLY.
"Now we won't keep you any longer, only," said his mistress, "I have one
thing to ask you, that I may be by when you show your treasure to your
"Come, then," said Jem, "come with me now."
"Not now," said the lady, laughing; "but I will come to Ashton to-morrow
evening; perhaps your mother can find me a few strawberries."
"That she will," said Jem: "I'll search the garden myself."
He now went home, but felt it a great restraint to wait till to-morrow
evening before he told his mother. To console himself he flew to the
stable:--"Lightfoot, you're not to be sold on Monday, poor fellow!" said
he, patting him, and then could not refrain from counting out his money.
Whilst he was intent upon this, Jem was startled by a noise at the door:
somebody was trying to pull up the latch. It opened, and there came in
Lazy Lawrence, with a boy in a red jacket, who had a cock under his arm.
They started when they got into the middle of the stable, and when they
saw Jem, who had been at first hidden by the horse.
"We--we--we came," stammered Lazy Lawrence--"I mean, I came to--to--to--"
"To ask you," continued the stable-boy, in a bold tone, "whether you will
go with us to the cock-fight on Monday? See, I've a fine cock here, and
Lawrence told me you were a great friend of his; so I came."
Lawrence now attempted to say something in praise of the pleasures of
cock-fighting and in recommendation of his new companion. But Jem looked
at the stable-boy with dislike, and a sort of dread. Then turning his
eyes upon the cock with a look of compassion, said, in a low voice, to
Lawrence, "Shall you like to stand by and see its eyes pecked out?"
"I don't know," said Lawrence, "as to that; but they say a cockfight's a
fine sight, and it's no more cruel in me to go than another; and a great
many go, and I've nothing else to do, so I shall go."
"But I have something else to do," said Jem, laughing, "so I shall not
"But," continued Lawrence, "you know Monday is the great Bristol fair,
and one must be merry then, of all the days in the year."
"One day in the year, sure, there's no harm in being merry," said the
"I hope not," said Jem; "for I know for my part, I am merry every day in
"That's very odd," said Lawrence; "but I know for my part, I would not
for all the world miss going to the fair, for at least it will be
something to talk of for half a year after. Come, you'll go, won't you?"
"No," said Jem, still looking as if he did not like to talk before the
"Then what will you do with all your money?"
"I'll tell you about that another time," whispered Jem; "and don't you go
to see that cock's eyes pecked out; it won't make you merry, I'm sure."
"If I had anything else to divert me," said Lawrence, hesitating and
"Come," cried the stable boy, seizing his stretching arm, "come along,"
cried he; and, pulling him away from Jem, upon whom he cast a look of
extreme contempt; "leave him alone, he's not the sort.
"What a fool you are," said he to Lawrence, the moment he got him out of
the stable; "you might have known he would not go, else we should soon
have trimmed him out of his four and sevenpence. But how came you to
talk of four and sevenpence. I saw in the manger a hat full of silver."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Lawrence.
"Yes, indeed; but why did you stammer so when we first got in? You had
liked to have blown us all up."
"I was so ashamed," said Lawrence, hanging down his head.
"Ashamed! but you must not talk of shame now you are in for it, and I
sha'n't let you off; you owe us half a crown, recollect, and I must be
paid to-night, so see and get the money somehow or other." After a
considerable pause he added, "I answer for it he'd never miss half a
crown out of all that silver."
"But to steal," said Lawrence, drawing back with horror, "I never thought
I should come to that--and from poor Jem, too--the money that he has
worked so hard for, too."
"But it is not stealing; we don't mean to steal; only to borrow it; and
if we win, which we certainly shall, at the cock-fight, pay it back
again, and he'll never know anything about the matter, and what harm will
it do him? Besides, what signifies talking, you can't go to the cock-
fight, or the fair either, if you don't; and I tell ye we don't mean to
steal it; we'll pay it by Monday night."
Lawrence made no reply, and they parted without his coming to any
Here let us pause in our story. We are almost afraid to go on. The rest
is very shocking. Our little readers will shudder as they read. But it
is better that they should know the truth, and see what the idle boy came
to at last.
In the dead of the night, Lawrence heard somebody tap at his window. He
knew well who it was, for this was the signal agreed upon between him and
his wicked companion. He trembled at the thoughts of what he was about
to do, and lay quite still, with his head under the bedclothes, till he
heard the second tap. Then he got up, dressed himself, and opened his
window. It was almost even with the ground. His companion said to him,
in a hollow voice, "Are you ready?" He made no answer, but got out of
the window and followed.
When he got to the stable a black cloud was just passing over the moon,
and it was quite dark. "Where are you?" whispered Lawrence, groping
about, "where are you? Speak to me."
"I am here; give me your hand." Lawrence stretched out his hand. "Is
that your hand?" said the wicked boy, as Lawrence laid hold of him; "how
cold it feels."
"Let us go back," said Lawrence; "it is time yet."
"It is no time to go back," replied the other, opening the door; "you've
gone too far now to go back," and he pushed Lawrence into the stable.
"Have you found it? Take care of the horse. Have you done? What are
you about? Make haste, I hear a noise," said the stable boy, who watched
at the door.
"I am feeling for the half-crown, but I can't find it."
"Bring all together." He brought Jem's broken flower pot, with all the
money in it, to the door. The black cloud had now passed over the moon,
and the light shone full upon them. "What do we stand here for?" said
the stable boy, snatching the flower-pot out of Lawrence's trembling
hands, and pulled him away from the door.
"Good God!" cried Lawrence, "you won't take all. You said you'd only
take half a crown, and pay it back on Monday. You said you'd only take
half a crown!"
"Hold your tongue," replied the other, walking on, deaf to all
remonstrances--"if ever I am to be hanged, it sha'n't be for half a
Lawrence's blood ran cold in his veins, and he felt as if all his hair
stood on end. Not another word passed. His accomplice carried off the
money, and Lawrence crept, with all the horrors of guilt upon him, to his
restless bed. All night he was starting from frightful dreams; or else,
broad awake, he lay listening to every small noise, unable to stir, and
scarcely daring to breathe--tormented by that most dreadful of all kinds
of fear, that fear which is the constant companion of an evil conscience.
He thought the morning would never come; but when it was day, when he
heard the birds sing, and saw everything look cheerful as usual, he felt
still more miserable. It was Sunday morning, and the bell rang for
church. All the children of the village, dressed in their Sunday
clothes, innocent and gay, and little Jem, the best and gayest amongst
them, went flocking by his door to church.
"Well, Lawrence," said Jem, pulling his coat as he passed and saw
Lawrence leaning against his father's door, "what makes you look so
"I?" said Lawrence, starting; "why do you say that I look black?"
"Nay, then," said Jem, "you look white enough now, if that will please
you, for you're turned as pale as death."
"Pale?" replied Lawrence, not knowing what he said, and turned abruptly
away, for he dared not stand another look of Jem's; conscious that guilt
was written in his face, he shunned every eye. He would now have given
the world to have thrown off the load of guilt which lay upon his mind.
He longed to follow Jem, to fall upon his knees and confess all.
Dreading the moment when Jem should discover his loss, Lawrence dared not
stay at home, and not knowing what to do, or where to go, he mechanically
went to his old haunt at the stable yard, and lurked thereabouts all day
with his accomplice, who tried in vain to quiet his fears and raise his
spirits by talking of the next day's cock-fight. It was agreed that as
soon as the dusk of the evening came on, they should go together into a
certain lonely field, and there divide their booty.
In the meantime, Jem, when he returned from church, was very full of
business, preparing for the reception of his mistress, of whose intended
visit he had informed his mother; and whilst she was arranging the
kitchen and their little parlour, he ran to search the strawberry beds.
"Why, my Jem, how merry you are to-day!" said his mother, when he came in
with the strawberries, and was jumping about the room playfully. "Now,
keep those spirits of yours, Jem, till you want 'em, and don't let it
come upon you all at once. Have it in mind that to-morrow's fair day,
and Lightfoot must go. I bid Farmer Truck call for him to-night. He
said he'd take him along with his own, and he'll be here just now--and
then I know how it will be with you, Jem!"
"So do I!" cried Jem, swallowing his secret with great difficulty, and
then tumbling head over heels four times running.
A carriage passed the window, and stopped at the door. Jem ran out; it
was his mistress. She came in smiling, and soon made the old woman
smile, too, by praising the neatness of everything in the house.
We shall pass over, however important as they were deemed at the time,
the praises of the strawberries, and of "my grandmother's china plate."
Another knock was heard at the door. "Run, Jem," said his mother. "I
hope it's our milk-woman with cream for the lady." No; it was Farmer
Truck come for Lightfoot. The old woman's countenance fell. "Fetch him
out, dear," said she, turning to her son; but Jem was gone; he flew out
to the stable the moment he saw the flap of Farmer Truck's great-coat.
"Sit ye down, farmer," said the old woman, after they had waited about
five minutes in expectation of Jem's return. "You'd best sit down, if
the lady will give you leave; for he'll not hurry himself back again. My
boy's a fool, madam, about that there horse." Trying to laugh, she
added, "I knew how Lightfoot and he would be loath enough to part. He
won't bring him out till the last minute; so do sit ye down, neighbour."
The farmer had scarcely sat down when Jem, with a pale, wild countenance
came back. "What's the matter?" said his mistress. "God bless the boy!"
said his mother, looking at him quite frightened, whilst he tried to
speak, but could not.
She went up to him, and then leaning his head against her, he cried,
"It's gone!--it's all gone!" and, bursting into tears, he sobbed as if
his little heart would break.
"What's gone, love?" said his mother.
"My two guineas--Lightfoot's two guineas. I went to fetch 'em to give
you, mammy; but the broken flower-pot that I put them in, and all's
gone!--quite gone!" repeated he, checking his sobs. "I saw them safe
last night, and was showing 'em to Lightfoot; and I was so glad to think
I had earned them all myself; and I thought how surprised you'd look, and
how glad you'd be, and how you'd kiss me, and all!"
His mother listened to him with the greatest surprise, whilst his
mistress stood in silence, looking first at the old woman, and then at
Jem with a penetrating eye, as if she suspected the truth of his story,
and was afraid of becoming the dupe of her own compassion.
"This is a very strange thing!" said she, gravely. "How came you to
leave all your money in a broken flower-pot in the stable? How came you
not to give it to your mother to take care of?"
"Why, don't you remember?" said Jem, looking up, in the midst of his
tears--"why, don't you remember you, your own self, bid me not tell her
about it till you were by?"
"And did you not tell her?"
"Nay, ask mammy," said Jem, a little offended; and when afterwards the
lady went on questioning him in a severe manner, as if she did not
believe him, he at last made no answer.
"Oh, Jem! Jem! why don't you speak to the lady?" said his mother.
"I have spoke, and spoke the truth," said Jem, proudly; "and she did not
Still the lady, who had lived too long in the world to be without
suspicion, maintained a cold manner, and determined to wait the event
without interfering, saying only, that she hoped the money would be
found, and advised Jem to have done crying.
"I have done," said Jem; "I shall cry no more." And as he had the
greatest command over himself, he actually did not shed another tear, not
even when the farmer got up to go, saying, he could wait no longer.
Jem silently went to bring out Lightfoot. The lady now took her seat,
where she could see all that passed at the open parlour-window. The old
woman stood at the door, and several idle people of the village, who had
gathered round the lady's carriage examining it, turned about to listen.
In a minute or two Jem appeared, with a steady countenance, leading
Lightfoot and, when he came up, without saying a word, put the bridle
into Farmer Truck's hand.
"He HAS BEEN a good horse," said the farmer.
"He IS a good horse!" cried Jem, and threw his arm over Lightfoot's neck,
hiding his own face as he leaned upon him.
At this instant a party of milk-women went by; and one of them, having
set down her pail, came behind Jem, and gave him a pretty smart blow upon
the back. He looked up. "And don't you know me?" said she.
"I forget," said Jem; "I think I have seen your face before, but I
"Do you so? and you'll tell me just now," said she, half opening her
hand, "that you forget who gave you this, and who charged you not to part
with it, too." Here she quite opened her large hand, and on the palm of
it appeared Jem's silver penny.
"Where?" exclaimed Jem, seizing it, "oh, where did you find it? and have
you--oh, tell me, have you got the rest of my money?"
"I know nothing of your money--I don't know what you would be at," said
"But where--pray tell me where--did you find this?"
"With them that you gave it to, I suppose," said the milk-woman, turning
away suddenly to take up her milk-pail. But now Jem's mistress called to
her through the window, begging her to stop, and joining in his
entreaties to know how she came by the silver penny.
"Why, madam," said she, taking up the corner of her apron, "I came by it
in an odd way, too. You must know my Betty is sick, so I came with the
milk myself, though it's not what I'm used to; for my Betty--you know my
Betty?" said she, turning round to the old woman, "my Betty serves you,
and she's a tight and stirring lassy, ma'am, I can assure--"
"Yes, I don't doubt it," said the lady, impatiently; "but about the
"Why, that's true; as I was coming along all alone, for the rest came
round, and I came a short cut across yon field--no, you can't see it,
madam, where you stand--but if you were here--"
"I see it--I know it," said Jem, out of breath with anxiety.
"Well--well--I rested my pail upon the stile, and sets me down awhile,
and there comes out of the hedge--I don't know well how, for they
startled me so I'd liked to have thrown down my milk--two boys, one about
the size of he," said she pointing to Jem, "and one a matter taller, but
ill-looking like; so I did not think to stir to make way for them, and
they were like in a desperate hurry: so, without waiting for the stile,
one of 'em pulled at the gate, and when it would not open (for it was
tied with a pretty stout cord) one of 'em whips out with his knife and
cuts it-- Now, have you a knife about you, sir?" continued the milk
woman to the farmer. He gave her his knife. "Here, now, ma'am, just
sticking, as it were here, between the blade and the haft, was the silver
penny. The lad took no notice; but when he opened it, out it falls.
Still he takes no heed, but cuts the cord, as I said before, and through
the gate they went, and out of sight in half a minute. I picks up the
penny, for my heart misgave me that it was the very one husband had had a
long time, and had given against my voice to he," pointing to Jem; "and I
charged him not to part with it; and, ma'am, when I looked I knew it by
the mark, so I thought I would show it to HE," again pointing to Jem,
"and let him give it back to those it belongs to."
"It belongs to me," said Jem, "I never gave it to anybody--but--"
"But," cried the farmer, "those boys have robbed him; it is they who have
all his money."
"Oh, which way did they go?" cried Jem, "I'll run after them."
"No, no," said the lady, calling to her servant; and she desired him to
take his horse and ride after them. "Ay," added Farmer Truck, "do you
take the road, and I'll take the field way, and I'll be bound we'll have
Whilst they were gone in pursuit of the thieves, the lady, who was now
thoroughly convinced of Jem's truth, desired her coachman would produce
what she had ordered him to bring with him that evening. Out of the boot
of the carriage the coachman immediately produced a new saddle and
How Jem's eyes sparkled when the saddle was thrown upon Lightfoot's back!
"Put it on your horse yourself, Jem," said the lady; "it is yours."
Confused reports of Lightfoot's splendid accoutrements, of the pursuit of
thieves, and of the fine and generous lady who was standing at Dame
Preston's window, quickly spread through the village, and drew everybody
from their houses. They crowded round Jem to hear the story. The
children especially, who were fond of him, expressed the strongest
indignation against the thieves. Every eye was on the stretch; and now
some, who had run down the lane, came back shouting, "Here they are!
they've got the thieves!"
The footman on horseback carried one boy before him; and the farmer,
striding along, dragged another. The latter had on a red jacket, which