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The Ill-natured Boy.
HERE was once a little boy who was so unfortunate as to have a very bad man for his father, who was always surly and ill-tempered, and never gave his children either good instruction or good example. As a result of this he became ill-natured, quarrelsome, and disagreeable to everybody. He was very often severely beaten for his impertinence by boys that were bigger than himself, and sometimes by boys that were less; for, though he was very abusive and quarrelsome, he did not much like fighting, and generally trusted more to his heels than to his courage when he had engaged himself in a quarrel. This little boy had a dog that was the exact counterpart of himself, and both dog and boy were disliked by all the neighbourhood.
One morning his father got up early to go on a journey which would take him all day; but before he went out he gave his son some bread and cold meat and sixpence, and told him he might go and do what he liked the whole day. The little boy was much pleased with this liberty; and, as it was a very fine morning, he called his dog Tiger to follow him, and began his walk.
He had not proceeded far before he met a little boy that was driving a flock of sheep towards a gate that he wanted them to enter. Pray, master," said the little boy, "stand still, and keep your dog close to you, for fear you should frighten my sheep." "Oh yes, to be sure," answered the ill-natured boy; "I am to wait here all the morning, I suppose, till you and your sheep have passed! Here, Tiger, seize them, boy!" Tiger at this sprang forth into the middle of the flock, barking and biting on every side; and the sheep, in a general consternation, hurried each a separate way. Tiger seemed to enjoy this sport equally with his master; but in the midst of his triumph he happened unguardedly to attack an old ram that had more courage than the rest of the flock. He, instead of running away, faced about, and aimed a blow with his forehead at the
enemy with so much dexterity that he knocked Tiger over and over, and, butting him several times while he was down, obliged him to limp howling away.
The ill-natured little boy had been much amused with the fright of the sheep, but now he laughed heartily at the misfortune of his dog; and he would have laughed much longer had not the other little boy, provoked beyond patience at this treatment, thrown a stone at him, which hit him full upon the temple and almost knocked him down. He immediately began to cry, in concert with his dog; and, perceiving a man coming towards them whom he fancied might be the owner of the sheep, he thought it most prudent to escape as speedily as possible.
But he had scarcely recovered from the smart which the blow had occasioned before his former mischievous disposition returned, which he determined to gratify to the utmost. He had not gone far before he saw a little girl standing by a stile with a large pot of milk at her feet. "Pray," said the little girl, "help me up with this pot of milk. My mother sent me out to fetch it this morning, and I have brought it above a mile already, but I am so tired that I have been obliged to stop at this stile to rest me; and if I don't return home soon we shall have no pudding to-day: and, besides, my mother will be very angry with me." "What!" said the boy; "you are to have a pudding to-day, are you, miss?" "Yes," said the girl, "and a fine piece of roast beef; for there's Uncle Will, and Uncle John, and grandfather, and all my cousins to dine with us; and we shall be very merry in the evening, I can assure you; so pray help me up as speedily as possible." "That I will, miss," said the boy; and, taking up the pot, he pretended to fix it upon her head; but just as she had hold of it he gave it a little push, as if he had stumbled, and overturned it upon her. The little girl began to cry violently, but the mischievous boy ran away laughing heartily, and saying, "Good-bye, little miss; give my humble service to Uncle Will and grandfather, and the dear little cousins."
This prank encouraged him very much, for he thought he had now certainly escaped without any bad consequences; so he went on applauding his own ingenuity, and came to a green where several little boys were at play. He desired leave to play with them, which they allowed him to do. But he could not be
contented long without exercising his evil disposition; so, taking an opportunity when it was his turn to throw the ball, instead of flinging it the way he ought to have done he threw it into a deep muddy ditch. The little boys ran in a great hurry to see what was become of it; and as they were standing together upon the brink he gave the outermost boy a violent push against his neighbour. He, not being able to resist the force, tumbled against another boy, by which means they were all thrown into the ditch together. They soon scrambled out, and were going to have punished him for his ill behaviour; but he patted Tiger on the back, who began snarling and growling in such a manner as made them go away. Thus this mischievous little boy escaped a second time with impunity.
The next thing that he met with was a poor jackass feeding very quietly in a ditch. The little boy, seeing that nobody was within sight, thought this was an opportunity of plaguing an animal that was not to be lost; so he went and cut a large bunch of thorns, which he contrived to fix upon the poor beast's tail, and then setting Tiger at him, he was extremely diverted to see the fright and agony the creature was in. But it did not fare so well with Tiger, who, while he was baying and biting the animal's heels, received so severe a kick upon his forehead as laid him dead upon the spot. The boy, who had no affection for the dog, left him with the greatest unconcern when he saw what had happened, and, finding himself hungry, sat down by the wayside to eat his dinner.
One would think that this event would have cured him entirely of his mischievous disposition; but, unfortunately, nothing is so difficult to overcome as bad habits that have been long indulged. He had not gone far before he saw a lame beggar, who just made a shift to support himself by means of a couple of sticks. The beggar asked him to give him something; and the little mischievous boy, pulling out his sixpence, threw it down just before him as if he intended to make him a present of it; but, while the poor man was stooping with difficulty to pick it up, this wicked little boy knocked the stick away, by which means the beggar fell upon his face; and then, snatching up the sixpence, the boy ran away, laughing very heartily at the accident.
This was the last trick the ungracious boy had it in his power
to play; for, seeing two men come up to the beggar and enter into discourse with him, he was afraid of being pursued, and therefore ran as fast as he was able over several fields. At last he came into a lane which led into a farmer's orchard, and as he was preparing to climb over the fence a large dog seized him by the leg and held him fast. He cried out in an agony of terror, which brought the farmer out, who called the dog off, but seized him very roughly, saying, “So, sir, you are caught at last, are you? You thought you might come, day after day, and steal my apples without detection, but it seems you are mistaken; and now you shall receive the punishment you have so long deserved." The farmer then began to chastise him very severely with a whip he had in his hand, and the boy in vain protested he was innocent and begged for mercy. At last the farmer asked him who he was, and where he lived; but when he heard his name he cried out, "What! are you the little rascal that frightened my sheep this morning, by which means several of them are lost; and now do you think to escape?" Saying this, he lashed him more severely than before, in spite of all his cries and protestations. At length, thinking he had punished him enough, he turned him out of the orchard, bade him go home, and frighten sheep again if he liked the consequences.
The little boy slunk away, crying very bitterly (for he had been very severely beaten), and now began to find that no one can long hurt others with impunity; so he determined to go quietly home, and behave better for the future.
But his sufferings were not yet at an end; for, as he jumped down from a stile he felt himself very roughly seized, and, looking up, found that he was in the power of the lame beggar whom he had thrown upon his face. It was in vain that he now cried, entreated, and begged pardon: the man, who had been much hurt by his fall, thrashed him very severely with his stick before he would part with him. He now again went on, crying and roaring with pain; but at least expected to escape without further damage. But here he was mistaken; for, as he was walking slowly through a lane, just as he turned a corner he found himself in the middle of the very troop of boys that he had used so ill in the morning. They all set up a shout as soon as they saw their enemy in their power without his dog, and
began persecuting him in a thousand different ways. Some pulled him by the hair, others pinched him; some whipped his legs with their handkerchiefs, while others covered him with handsful of dirt. At length, while he was in this disagreeable situation, he happened to come up to the same jackass he had seen in the morning, and, making a sudden spring, jumped upon his back, hoping by this means to escape. The boys immediately renewed their shouts, and the ass, who was frightened at the noise, began galloping with all his might, and presently bore him from the reach of his enemies.
But he had little to rejoice at in this escape, for he found it impossible to stop the animal, and was every instant afraid of being thrown off and dashed upon the ground. After he had been thus hurried along a considerable time, the ass on a sudden stopped short at the door of a cottage, and began kicking and prancing with so much fury that the little boy was thrown to the ground, and broke his leg in the fall. His cries immediately brought the family out, among whom was the very little girl he had used so ill in the morning. But she, with the greatest good-nature, seeing him in such a pitiable situation, assisted in bringing him in and laying him upon the bed. There this unfortunate boy had leisure to reflect upon his conduct; and he determined, with great sincerity, that if he recovered from his present accident he would be as careful to take every opportunity of doing good as he had been before to commit every kind of mischief.
PLATO entertained some of his friends at a dinner, and had in the chamber a bed or couch, neatly and costly furnished. Diogenes came in, got upon the bed, and trampled it, saying, "I trample upon the pride of Plato." Plato mildly answered, "But with greater pride, Diogenes."
THE end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest, by possessing our souls of true virtue, which, being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection.