Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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three or four times before they were suffered to set off,
they directed their steps the way they thought would directly
conduct them to the goal; and some of them had almost
reached it when Shaiply (the boy I mentioned), who had
placed a shilling upon the stick, for they drew lots who
should do that, and he who furnished the money was to stand
by it to observe who won it by coming nearest ; well,
Sharply, I say, just as they came close to it, moved away
softly to another place, above three yards distant from any
of them (for I should have told you that if none of them
got within three yards the shilling was to remain his, and
they were each to give him a penny). So then he untied
their eyes, and insisted upon it they had all of them lost.
But two or three of us happened to be by, and so we said he
had cheated them, and ought not to keep the money, as it
had fairly been won by Smyth. But he would not give it up,
so it made a quarrel between him and Smyth, and at last
they fought, and Mr. Chiron confined them both in the
school all the rest of the afternoon; and when he heard what
the quarrel was about, he took the shilling from Sharply, and
called him a mean-spirited cheat; but he would not let Smyth
have it, because he said he deserved to lose it for fighting
about such a trifle, and so it was put into the forfeit-money.'
' But pray do not you think Sharply behaved extremely
wrong?' 'Shamefully so, indeed,' said the gentleman. 'I
never could have any opinion of a boy who could act so dis-
honourably,' said the lady, ' let his cleverness be what it
would.' ' Pray, Frank, tell me some more,' said the little
boy. ' More!' replied Frank, ' I could tell you a hundred
such kind of things. One time, as Peter Light was walking
up the yard, with some damsons in his hat. Sharply ran
by, and as he passed, knocked his hat out of his hand, for
the sake of scrambling for as many as he could get himself.
And sometimes, ' ''' the pie-woman has been there, he gets
such heaps of tarts you cannot think by his different tricks :
perhaps he will buy a currant tart himself; then he would go
about, calling out, " Who'll change a cheesecake for a currant



LIFE OF A MOUSE.



tart?" and now and then he will add, "and half a bun into
the bargain!" Then two or three of the boys call out, "I
will, I will !" and when they go to hold out their cheesecakes
to him, he snatches ^them out of their hands before they are
aware, and runs away in an instant ; and whilst they stand
for a moment in astonishment, he gets so much a-head of
them, that he eats them up before they can again overtake
him. At other times, when he sees a boy beginning to eat
his cake, he will come and talk carelessly to him for a few
moments, and then all of a sudden call out, " Look ! look !
look ! — there !" pointing his finger as if to show him some-
thing wonderful; and when the other, without suspecting
any mischief, turns his head to see what has so surprised
him, away he snatches the cake, and runs off with it, cram-
ming it into his mouth in a moment.

'And when he plays at Handy-dandy Jack-a-dandy, which
will you have, upper hand or lower ? if you happen to guess
right, he slips whatever you are playing with into his other
hand; and that, you know, is not playing fair, and so many
of the boys tell him ; but he does not mind any of us. And
as he is clever at his learning, and always does his exercise
quite right, Mr. Chiron (who indeed does not know of his
tricks) is very fond of him, and is for ever saying what a
clever fellow he is, and proposing him as an example to the
rest of the boys; and I do believe many of them imitate his
deceitful cheating tricks, only for the sake of being thought
like him.'

' Ay ! it is a sad thing,' inteiTupted the gentleman, ' thai
people who are blessed v."lth sense and abilities tG bchaVc
we'll, should so misuse them as to set a bad, instead of a
good example to others, and by that means draw many into
sin, who otherwise perhaps might never have acted wrong.
Was this Sharply you have been speaking of a dunce and
blockhead at his book, he would never gain the commenda-
tions that Mr. Chiron now bestows upon him ; and conse-
quently, no boy would wish to be thought like him ; his bad
example, therefore, would not be of half the importance it
now is.

' Only think, then, my dear children, how extremely wicked



STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.



it is for those who are blessed with understandings capable
of 'acting as they should do, and making people admire them,
at the same time to be guilty of such real and great sin.
For however children at play may like to trick and deceive
each other, and call it only play or fun, still let me tell you
they are much mistaken if they flatter themselves there is no
harm in it. It is a very wrong way of behaviour; it is mean,
it is dishonourable, and it is wicked; and the boy or girl
who would ever permit themselves to act in so unjustifiable
a manner, however they may excel in their learning or ex-
terior accomplishments, can never be deserving of esteem,
confidence, or regard. What esteem or respect could I ever
entertain of a person's sense or learning, who made no better
use of it than to practise wickedness with more dexterity and
grace than he otherwise would be enabled to do % Or, what
confidence could I ever place in the person who I knew
only wanted a convenient opportunity to defraud, trick, and
deceive me % Or, what regard and love could I possibly en-
tertain for such a one, who, unless I kept a constant watch
over, as I must over a wild beast, would, like a wild beast, be
sure to do me some injury? Would it be possible, I say, to
love such a character, whatever shining abilities or depth of
learning he might possess % Ask your own hearts, my dears,
whether you think you could.'

To this they all answered at once, ' No, that I could not,'
and 'I" am sure I could' not' 'Well, then,' resumed the
father, ' only think how odious that conduct must be which
robs us of the esteem, confidence, and love of our fellow-
creatures ; and that, too, nouvitlistanding we may at the
same time be very clever, and have a great deal of sense and
learning. But, for my part, I confess I know not the least
advantage of our understanding or our learning, unless we
naake a proper use of them. Knowing a great deal, and
having read a great many books, will be of no service to us,
unless we are careful to make a proper use of that knowledge,
and to improve by what we read; otherwise the time we so
bestow is but lost, and we might as well spend the whole of
our lives in idleness.

' Always remember, therefore, my loves, that the whole



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 327



end of our taking the trouble to instruct you, or putting our-
selves to the expense of sending you to school, or your at-
tending to what is taught you is, that you may grow better
men and women than you otherwise would be; and unless,
tlierefore, you do imj^rove, we might as well spare ourselves
the pains and expense, and you need not take the troulile
of learning ; since, if you will act wickedly, all our labour is
but thrown away to no manner of purpose.

' Mr. and Mrs. Sharply, how I pity them ! A\'hat sorrow
must they endure to behold their son acting in the manner
you have described ; for nothing can give so much concern
to a fond parent's heart as to see their children, for whom
they have taken so much pains, turn out naughty, and to
deceive and cheat ! AV'hat can be worse than that % I hope,
my dear children, you will never, any of you, give us that
dreadful misery. I hope, my dear Tom, I hope you will
never learn any of those detestable ways your brother has
been telling you of And if it was not that you will often be
obliged to see such things when you mix with other children,
I should be sorry you should even hear of such bad actions,
as I could wish you to pass through life without so much as
knowing such wickedness ever existed ; but that is impos-
sible. There are so many naughty people in tlie world, that
you will often be obliged to see and hear of crimes which I
hope you will shudder to think of committing yourselves ;
and being warned of them beforehand, I hope it will put you
more upon your guard not to be tempted, upon any con-
sideration, to give the least encouragement to them, much
less to ])ractise them yourselves.

' Perhaps, Tom, if your brother had not, by telling us
of Sharply's tricks, given me an opportunity of warning you
how extremely wrong and wicked they are, you might, when
you were at school, have thought them very clever, and
marks of genius; and therefore, like others of the boys, have
tried to imitate them, and by that means have become as
wicked, mean, and dishonourable yourself And only think
how it would have grieved your mamma and me to find the
next holidays our dear little Tom, instead of being that
honest, open, generous-hearted boy he now is, changed into



328 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

a deceiver, a cheat, a liar, one whom we could place no trust
or confidence in; for, depend upon it, the person who will,
when at play, behave unfair, would not scruple to do so in
every other action of his life. And the boy who will deceive
for the sake of a marble, or the girl who would act ungene-
rously for the sake of a doll's cap or a pin, will, when grown
up, be ready to cheat and overreach in their trades, or any
affairs they may have to transact. And you may assure
yourselves that numbers of people who are every year hanged
began at first to be wicked by practising those little dis-
honourable mean actions, which so many children are too
apt to do at play, without thinking of their evil consequences.
' I think, my dear,' said he, turning to his wife, ' I have
heard you mention a person whom you were acquainted with
when a girl, who at last was hanged for stealing, I think, was
not she % ' ' No,' replied the lady, ' she was not hanged, she
was transported for one-and-twenty years.' ' Pray, madam,
how transported? what is that V inquired one of the children.
' People, my dear,' resumed the lady, 'are transported when
they have committed crimes which, according to the laws of
our land, are not thought quite wicked enough to be hanged
for, but still too bad to sufter them to continue amongst
other people. So, instead of hanging them, the judge orders
tliat they shall be sent on board a ship, built on purpose to
hold naughty people, and carried away from all their friends,
a great many miles distant, commonly to New South Wales,
where they remain some for seven years, some for fourteen
or twenty-one years, and some for their Avhole lives ; and
where they are obliged to work hard to earn a livelihood.
And the person your papa mentioned was transported for
twenty-one years ; but she died before that time was out, as
many of them do; and they seldom have an opportunity of
seeing their friends any more, after they are once sent away.
How should any of you, my dears, like to be sent away from
your papa and me, and your brothers and sisters, and uncles
and aunts, and all your friends, and never, never see us any
more ; and only keep company with naughty, cross, wicked
people, and labour very hard, and suffer a great deal of sick-
ness, and such a number of different hardships, you cannot



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 329

imagine % Only think how shocking it must be! How should
you like if? 'Oh! not at all, not at all,' was echoed from
every one in the room.

' But such,' rejoined their mother, ' is the punishment
naughty people have; and such was the punishment the
l)erson your papa spoke of had ; who, when she was young,
no more expected to have come to such an end than any of
you do. I was very well acquainted with her. and often
used to play with her, and she (like the boy Frank has been
talking of) used to think it a mark of cleverness to be able to
deceive; and for the sake of winning the game she Avas en-
gaged in, would not scruple committing any little unfair
action which would give her the advantage.

' I remember one time, at such a trifling game as push-pin,
she gave me a very bad opinion of her ; for I observed, in-
stead of pushing the pin as she ought to do, she would try
to lift it up with her finger a little, to make it cross over the
other.

' And when we were all at cards, she would peep to find
out the pictured ones, that she might have them in her own
hand.

' And when we played at any game which had forfeits, she
would try, by different little artifices, to steal back her own
before the time of crying them came; or, if she was the person
who was to cry them, as you call it, she would endeavour to
see whose came next, that she might order the penalty ac-
cordingly.

' Or if we were playing at hide and seek, she would put
what we had to hide either in her own pocket, or throw it
into the fire, so that it would be impossible to find it; and
then, after making her companions hunt for it for an hour,
till their patience was quite tired and they gave out, she
would burst out in a loud laugh, and say she only did it for
fun. 15ut, for my part, I never could see any joke in such
kind of things : the meanness, the baseness, the dishonour,
which attended it, always, in my opinion, took off" all degree
of cleverness or pleasure from such actions.

'There was another of her sly tricks which I forgot to
mention, and that was, if at tea, or any other time, she got



330 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

first to the plate of cake or bread, she would place the piece
she liked best where she thought it would come to lier turn
to have it: or if at breakfast she saw her sisters' basin have
the under crust in it, and they happened not to be by, or to
see her, she would take it out and put her own, which she
happened not to like so well, in the stead.'

' Only think, my dears, what frightful, sly, naughty tricks to
be guilty of ! And from practising these, which she said
there was no harm in, and she only did them in play, and
for a bit of fun, at last she came by degrees to be guilty of
greater. She two or three different times, when she was
not seen, stole things out of shops ; and one day, when she
was upon a visit, and thought she could do it cleverly with-
out being discovered, put a couple of table-spoons into her
pocket. The footman who was waiting happened to see her;
but fearing to give offence, he took no notice of it till after
she was gone home, when he told his master, who, justly
provoked at being so ill-treated by a person to whom he had
shown every civility, went after her, called in her own two
maids and his footman as witnesses, and then insisted upon
examining her pockets, where he indeed found his own two
spoons. He then sent for proper officers to secure her, had
her taken into custody, and for that offence it was that she
was transported.

' Thus, rny dear children, you see the shocking con-
sequence of ever suffering such vile habits to grow upon us;
and I hope the example of this unhappy woman (which I
assure you is a true story) will be sufficient to warn you for
ever, for a single time, being guilty of so detestable a crime,
lest you should, like her, by degrees come to e'xperience her
fatal punishment.'

Just as the lady said these words a bell rang, and all
getting up together, they went out of the room, the young
one calling out, 'To dinner ! to dinnerl to dinner! here we
all go to dinner!'

And I will seek for one too, said I to myself (creeping
out as soon as I found that I was all alone), for I feel very
faint and hungry. I looked and looked about a long while,
for I could move but slowly, on account of the bruises I had



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 331

received in the shoe. At last, under the table round which
the family had been sitting, I found a pincushion, which,
being stuffed with bran, afforded me enough to satisfy my
hunger, but was excessively dry and unsavoury; yet, bad as
it was, I was obliged to be content at that time with it, and
had nearly done eating when the door opened, and in ran
two or three of the children. Frightened out of my senses
almost, I had just time to escape down a little hole in the
floor, made by one of the knots in the wood slipping out,
and there I heard one of the girls exclaim — ■

' O dear! who now has cut my pincushion % it was you did
it, Tom.' ' No, indeed I did not,' replied he. ' Then it
was you, Mary.' ' No, I know nothing of it,' answered she.
' Then it was you, Hetty.' ' That I am sure it was not,'
said she; 'I am sure, I am certain it was not me; I am
positive it was not.' 'Ah!' replied the other, 'I dare say it
was.' 'Yes, I think it is most likely,' said Mary. 'And so
do I too,' said Tom. ' And pray why do you all think so?'
inquired Hetty, in an angry tone. ' Because,' said the owner
of the pincushion, ' you are the only one who ever tells fibs;
you told a story, you know, about the fruit; you told a story,
too, about the currant jelly; and about putting your fingers
in the butter at breakfast; and therefore there is a very great
reason why we should suspect you more than anybody else.'
' But I am sure,' said she, bursting into tears, ' I am very
sure I have not meddled with it.' ' I do not at all know that,'
replied the other, ' and I do think it was you; for I am certain
if anyone else had done it they would not deny it, and it could
not come into this condition by itself; somebody myst have
done it, and I dare say it was you; so say no more about it.'

Here the dispute was interrupted by somebody calling
them out of the room; and I could not help making some
reflections on what had passed. How dreadful a crime,
thought I, is lying and falsity; to what sad mortifications
does it subject the person who is ever wicked enough to
commit it; and how does it expose them to the contempt of
ever}'one, and make them to be sus])ected of fuilts they are
even perfectly free from ! Little Hetty, now, is innocent
with respect to the pincushion with which her sister charges



332 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

her, as any of the others ; yet, because she has before for-
feited her honour, she can gain no credit: no one beheves
what she says; she is thought to be guilty of the double
fault of spoiling the pincushion, and, what is still worse, of
lying to conceal it ; whilst the other children are at once
believed, and their words depended upon.

Surely, surely, thought I, if people would but reflect upon
the contempt, the shame, and the difiiculties which lies ex-
pose them to, they would never be guilty of so terrible a
vice, which subjects them to the scorn of all they converse
with, and renders them at all times suspected, even though
they should, as in the case of Hetty, really speak the truth.
Such were my reflections upon falsehood; nor could I help
altogether blaming the owner of the pincushion for her hasty
judgment relating to it. Somebody, she was certain, must
have done it ; it was impossible it could come so by itself.
That, to be sure, was very true; but then she never re-
collected that it was possible a little mouse might put it in
that condition. Ah ! thought I to myself, what pity is it
that human creatures, who are blest with understanding and
faculties so superior to any species, should not make better
use of them, and learn, from daily experience, to grow wiser
and better for the future. This one instance of the pin-
cushion may teach (and surely people engaged in life must
hourly find more) how dangerous it is to draw hasty con-
clusions, and to condemn people upon suspicion, as also
the many great and bad consequences of lying.

Scarcely had I finished these soliloquies, when a great
knock at the house-door made me give such a start that I
fell off" the joist on which I was standing, and then ran
straight forwards till I came out at a little hole I found in
the bricks above the parlour window: from that I descended
into the road, and went on unmolested till I reached a malt-
house, about whose various apartments, never staying long
in the same, I continued to live ; till one night, all on a
sudden, I was alarmed by fire, which obliged me to retreat
with the greatest expedition.

I passed numberless rats and mice in my way, who, like
myself, were dri^•en forth by the flamesj but, alas ! among



LIFE OF A MOUSE. m



them I found not my brother. Despairing, therefore, of ever
seeing him again, I determined, if possible, to find my way
back to you, who before had shown me such kindness. Num-
berless were the fatigues and difficulties I had to encounter
in my journey here ; one while in danger from hungry cats,
at another almost perished with cold and want of food.

But it is needless to enumerate every particular; I should
but tire your patience were I to attempt it ; so I will hasten
to a conclusion of my history, only telling you how you came
to find me in that melancholy condition from which your
mercy has now raised me.

I came into your house one evening concealed in the
middle of a floor-cloth which the maid had rolled up and
set at the outside of the back door, whilst she swept the
passage, and neglected to take it in again till the evening.
In that I hid myself, and upon her laying it down, ran with
all speed down the cellar stairs, where I continued till the
family were all gone to bed. Then I returned back, and
came into your closet, where the scent of some figs tempted
me to get into the jar in which you found me. I concealed
myself among them, and after feasting most deliciously, fell
asleep, from which I was awakened by hearing a voice say,
'Who has left the cover off the fig-jar?' and at the same
time I was involved in darkness by having it put on. In
vain I endeavoured to remove it ; the figs were so low, that
when I stood on them I could but just touch it with my lips,
and the jar being stone, I could not possibly fasten my nails
to hang by the side.

In this dismal situation, therefore, I was constrained to
stay; my apprehensions each day increasing as my food
diminished, till at last, after feeding very sparingly for some
days, it was quite exhausted; and I had endured the inexpres-
sible tortures of hunger for three days and three nights, when
you happily released me, and by your compassion restored me
once more to life and liberty. Condescend, therefore, to
preserve that life you have so lengthened, and take me
under your protection.

'That most gladly,' interrupted I, ' I will do: you will live
in this large green-flowered tin canister, and run in and out



334 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

when you please, and I will keep you constantly supplied
with food. But I must now shut you in, for the cat has this
moment entered the room.'



And now I cannot take leave of all my little readers without
once more begging them, for their own sakes, to endeavour
to follow all the good advice the mouse has been giving
them; and likewise warning them to shun all those vices
and follies, the practice of which renders children so con-
temptible and wicked.



THE VILLAGE SCHOOL. 335



THE VILLAGE SCHOOL, ETC.

CHAPTER I.

At a clean pleasant village, about forty miles from London,
there once lived a Mrs. Bell, a very good woman, who was so
kind as to keep a school to teach little boys and girls to read.
She likewise taught the girls to spin, knit stockings, and to
hem, sew, fell, stitch, and mark.

There was not a great number of houses at Rose Green,
which was the name of the village, therefore she could not
have many scholars, though, if I remember right, she had
above twenty, for everybody who had children sent them to
school to her, because she was so good a mistress ; and if
any of her poor neighbours could not afford to let their
children go, Mr. Right, the clergyman of the parish, was so
kind as to pay for them. He used to say, ' It is a sad thing
for children not to learn to read and work ; they will never
know how to employ themselves when they are men and
women, and I am sure such ignorance must cause them great
distress; I will therefore pay the schooling of all those chil-
dren whose parents are honest, industrious people, but cannot
afford to pay for themselves.'

Mr. and Mrs. Right liked Mrs. Bell so well, that they sent
three litde children of their own to her : Miss Hannah, Miss
Polly, and Master John, a little boy of three years old. Miss
Polly was not a bad tempered child, but she used often to
get into disgrace, because she was so fond of play and talk-
ing, that she could neither mind her book or work herself, or
let any of the other children who sat by her. She would
often take playthings or fruit to school to divert herself with,



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 30 of 43)