Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 58 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 58 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pleaded guilty. He did not deny the fact, but
said he did not consider it as a crime, for he did
not think c-ame was private property, and he
owned he had a strong temptation for doing
what he had done, which he hoped would plead
his excuse. The justice desired to know what
this temptation was. — * Sir,' said the poor fellow,
* you know I was given over this spring in a
bad fever. I had no friend in the world but you,
sir. Under God you saved my life by your cha-
ritable relief; and I trust also you may have
helped to save my soul by your prayers and
your good advice ; for, by the grace of God, I
have turned over a new leaf since that sickness.

• I know I can never make you amends for
all your goodness, but I thought it would bo
some comfort to my full heart if I could but
once give you some little token of my gratitude
So I had trained a pair of nice turtle doves for
madam Wilson, but they were stolen from me,
sir, and I do suspect black Giles stole them.
Yesterday morning, sir, as I was crawling out
to my work, fbr I am still but very weak, a fine
hare ran across my path. I did not slay to con-
sider whether it was wrong to kill a hare, but I
felt it was right tp show my gratitude ; so, sir,
without a moment's thought I did knock down
the hare, which I was going to carry to your
worship, because I knew madam was fond of
hare. I am truly sorry for my fault, and will
submit to whatever punishment your worship
may please to inflict.'

Mr. Wilson was much moved with this ho
nest confession, and touched with the poor fel-
low's gratitude. What added to the effect of the
story, was the weak condition and pale sickly
looks of the offender. But this worthy magis-
trate never suffered his feeling to bias his Inte-
grity ; he knew that he did not sit on that bench
to indulge pity, hot to administer justice ; and
while he was sorry for the offender, ho would
never justify the offence. * John,' said he, * I
am surprised that you could for a moment for-
get that I never accept any gift which causes
the giver to break a law. On Sunday I teach
yon from the pulpit the laws of God, whose mi-
nister I am. At present I fill the chair of the
magistrate, to enforce and execute the laws of
the land. Between those and the others there
is more connexion than you are aware. I thank
you, John, fbr your affection to me, and I ad-
mire your gratitude ; but I must not allow either
affection or gratitude to be brought as a plea
for a wrong action. It is not your business nor
mine, John, to settle whether the game laws are
good or bad. Till they are repealed we. must
obey them. Many, I doubt not, break these laws
through ignorance, and many, I am certain,
who would not dare to steal a goose or a turkey.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



make no scrapie of knockiog down a hare or a
partridge. You will hereafter think yourself
nappy that this your first attempt has proved
ansaccessftU, as I trust you are too honest a fel-
low ever to intend to torn poacher. With poach-
ing much moral evil is connected ; a habit of
nightly depredation ; a custom of yrowling in
the dark for prey produces in time a disrelish
for honest labour. He whoee first offisnoe was
committed without much thought or evil inten-
tion, if he happens to succeed a few times in car-
rying off his booty undiscovered, grows bolder
and bolder : and when he fancies there is no
shame attending it, he very soon gets to per-
suade himself that there is also no sin. While
some people pretend a scruple about stealing a
sheep, they partly live by plundering of war.
reus. But remember that the warrener pays a
high rent, and that therefore his rabbits are as
much his pn^rty as hu sheep. Do not then
deceive yourselves with these nlse distinctions.
All property is sacred, and as the laws of the
land are intended to fence in that property, he
who brin^ up his children to break down any
of these rences, brings them up to certain sin
and ruin. He who begins with robbing orchards,
rabbit-warrens, and fish-ponds, will probably
end with horse-stealing or high-way robbery.
Poaching is a regular apprenticeship to bolder
crimes. He whom I may commit as a boy to
sit in the stocks for killing a partridge, may be
likely to end at the gallows for killing a man.

' Observe, you who now hear me, the strict-
ness and impartiality of justice. 1 know Giles
to be a worthless fellow, yet it is my duty to
take his information; I know Jack Weston to
be an honest youth, yet I must be obliged to
make him pay the penalty. Giles is a bad man,
but he can prove this fact ; Jack is a worthy
lad, but he has committed this fault. I am sorry
for you. Jack ; but do not let it grieve you that
Giles has played worse tricks a hundred times,
and yet got off, while vou were detected in the
very first offence, for that would be grieving be-
cause you are not as ffreat a rogue as Giles. At
this moment you think ^our good Juck is very
unequal ; but all this will one day turn oat in
your favour. Giles is not the more a favourite
of Heaven because he has hitherto escaped Bo-
tany Ba^, or the hulks ; nor is it any mark of
God*s displeasure against you, John, that you
were found out in your very first attempt*

Here the good justice left off speaking, and
no one could contradict the truth of what he had
said. Weston humbly submitted to his sentence,
bat he was very poor, and knew not where to
raise the money to pay his fine. His character
had always been so fair, that several fiirmers
present kindly agreed to advance a trifle each
to prevent his being sent to prison, and he thank-
folly promised to work out the debt The jus-
tice himself though he could not soflen the law,
yet showed Weston so much kindness that he
Was enabled before the year was out, to get out
it' this difficulty. He began to think more se-
riously than he had ever yet done, and grew to
abhor poaching, not merely from fear, but from

We shall soon see wlicther poaching Giles al-
ways got off so sncceasfully. Here we have

seen that worldly prosperity is no sure sign of
goodness. Next month we may, perhapa, see
Uiat the * triumph of the wicked is short ;* for 1
then promise to give the second part of the
Poacher, together with the entertaining storv
of the Widow Brown*s Apple-tree.


IBstory of Widow BromCt AfpU-trte,

I think my readers got so well acquainted
last month with black GUes the poacher, that
they will not expect this month to hear any
great good, either of Giles himself his wife Ra-
chel, or any of their family. I am sorry to ex-
pose their tricks, but it is their fault, not mine.
If I pretend to speak about people at all, I must
tell the truth. I am sure, if folks would but turn
about and mend, it would be a thousand times
pleasanter to me to write their histories ; for it
is no comfort to tell of any body's faults. If the
world would but ^ow good, I should be glad
enough to publish it ; but till it really becomes
so, I must go on describing it as it is ; other,
wise, I should only mislead my readers, instead
of instructing them. It is the duty of a faithful
historian to relate the evil with the good.

As to Giles and his boys, I am sure old widow
Brown has good reason to remember their dex-
terity. Poor woman ! she had a fine little bed
of onions in her neat and well-kept garden ; she
was very fond of her onions, and many a rheu*
matism has she caught by kneeling down to
weed them in a damp day, notwithstanding the
little flannel cloak and the bit of an old mat
which madam Wilson gave her, because the old
woman would needs weed in wet weather. Her
onions she always carefully treasured up for her
winter's store ; for an onion makes a little broth
very relishing, and is indeed the only savoury
thing poor people are used to get She had also
a small orchard, containing about a dozen apple,
trees, with which in a go^ year she had been
known to make a couple of barrels of cider*
which she sold to her landlord towards paying
her rent, besides having a little keg which she
was able to keep back for her own drinking.
Well ! would you believe it, Giles and his boys
marked both onions and apples for their own ;
indeed, a man who stole so many rabbits from
the warrener, was likely enough to steal onions
for sauce. One day, when the widow was
abroad on a little business, Giles and his boys
made a clear riddance of the onion bed ; and
when they had pulled up every single onion^
they then turned a couple of pigs into the gar-
den, who, allured by the smell, tore up the bed
in such a manner, that the widow, when she
came home, had not the least doubt but the pigs
had been the thieves. To confirm this opinion*
they took care to leave the latch half open at
one end of the garden, and to break down a
slight fence at the other end.

I wonder how any body can find in his heart
not to pity and respect poor old widows. There
is something so forlorn and helpless in their
condition, that methinks it is a call on ever?
body, men, women, and children, to do them all

Digitized by




the kind services that Ca^ in their way. Surelv
their having no one to take their part, is an ad-
ditional reason for kind-hearted people not to
hurt and oppress them. But it was this very
reason which led Giles to do this woman an in-
jurr. With what a touching simplicity is it
recorded in Scripture, of the youth whom our
blessed Saviour raised from the dead, that he
was the only son of his mother, and ihe a widow

It happened unluckily for poor widow Brown
that he: cottage stood quite alone. On several
mommgs together, (for roguery gets up much
earlier than industry,) Giles and his boys stole
regularly into her orchard, followed by their
isck-asses. She was so deaf that she could not
hear the asses if they had brayed ever so loud,
and to this Giles trusted ; for he was very cau-
tious in his rogueries ; since he could not other-
wise have contrived so long to keep out of prison ;
for though he waa almost always suspected, he
had seldom been taken up, and never convicted.
The boys used to fill their bags, load their asses,
and then march off; and if in their way to the
town where the apples were to be sold they
chanced to pass by one of their neio^hbours who
might be likely to suspect them, Uiey then all
at once began to scream out, * Buy my coal ! —
buy my sand !*

Besides the trees in her orchard, poor widow
Brown had in her small garden, one apple-tree
particularly fine ; it was a red-streak, so tempt-
ing and so lovely, that Giles's family had watch-
ed it with longing eyes, till at last they resolved
m a plan for carrying off all this fine fruit in
theti bags. But it was a nice point to manage.
Tue tree stood directly under her chamber win.
dow, so that there was some danger that she
might spy them at the work. They therefore
determined to wait till the next Sunday morn-
ing when they knew she would not fail to be at
church. Sunday came, and during service Giles
attended. It was a lone house, as I said before,
and the rest of the parish were safe at church.
In a trice the tree was cleared, the bags were
filled, the asses were whipped, the thieves were
off^ the coast was clear, and all was safe and
quiet by the time the serqaon was over.

Unluckily, however, it happened, that this
tree was so beautiful, and the fruit so fine, that
the people, as they used to pass to and from the
church, were very apt to stop and admire widow
Brown's red-streaks : and some of the farmers
rather envied her that in that scarce season,
when they hardly expected to make a pye out
of a large orchard, she was likely to make a
cask of cider from a single tree. I am afVaid,
indeed, if I mast speak out, she herself rather
set her heart too much upon this fruit, and had
felt as much pride in her tree as gratitude to a
^ood Providence for it ; but this failing of hers
was no excuse for Giles. The covetousness of
this thief had fur once got the better of his cau-
tion ; the tree was too completely stripped,
though the ycungest boy Dick did beg hard that
his filth er would leave the poor old woman
•noogh for a few dumplings ; and when Giles
ordered Dick in his turn to shake the tree, the
boy did it so gently that hardly any apples fell,
br which he got a gcod stroke of the stick with
which the old man was beating down the apples.

The neighbours on their return from church
stopped as usual, but it was not, alas ! to admire
the apples, for apples there were none lefl, but
to lament the robbery, and console the widow
meantime the red-streaks were safely lodged in
Giles's hovel under a few bundles of new hay
which he had contrived to pull from the farmer's
mow the night before, for the use of his jack-
asses. Such a stir, however, began to be made
about the widow's apple-tree, Uiat Giles, who
knew how much his character had laid him open
to suspicion, as soon as he saw the people safe
in church again in the aflernoon, ordered his
boys to carrj^ each a hatful of the apples and
thrust them in a little casement window which
happened to be open in the house of Samuel
Price, a very honest carpenter in that parish,
who was at church with his whole family.
Giles's plan, by this contrivance, was to lay the
thefl on Price's sons in case the thing should
come to be further inquired into. Here Dich
put in a word, and begged and prayed his father
not to force them to carrv the apples to Price's.
But all that he got by his begging was such »
knock as had nearly laid him on the earth.
* What, you cowardly rascal,' said Giles, • you
will go aud *peach, I suppose, and get youi
father sent to gaol.'

Poor widow Brown, though her trouble had
mode her still weaker than she was, went to
church again in the aflernoon: indeed she
rightly thought that her being in trouble was t
new reason why she ought to go. During th»
service she tried with all her might not to mink
of her red-streaks, and whenever they would
oome into her head, she took up her prayer-book
directly, and so she forgot them a little ; and in-
deed she found herself much easier when she
came out of the church than when she went in ;
an effect so commonly produced by prayer, ihat
methinks it is a pity people do not try it ollener.
Now it happened oddly enough, that on that
Sunday, of all the Sundays in the year, the wi-
dow should call in to rest a little at Samuel
Price's, to tell over again the lamentable story
of the apples, and to coi\sult with him how the
thief might be brought to justice. But O, reader !
guess if you can, for I km sure I cannot tell you,
what was her surprise, when, on going into
Samuel Price's kitchen, she saw her' own red
streaks lying on the window ! The apples were
of a sort too remarkable, for colour, shape, and
sizOi to be mistaken. There was not such an
other tree in the parish. Widow Brown imme
diately screamed out, * Alas-a-day ! as sure as
can be, here are my red-streakes ; I oould swear
to them in any court.* Samuel Price, who be-
lieved hb sons to be as honest as himself, was
shocked and troubled at the sight. He knew he
had no red-streaks of his own, he knew there
were no apples in the window when he went to
church : he did verily believe these apples to be
the widow's. But how they came there he could
not possibly guess. He called for Tom, the only
one of his sons who now lived at home. Tom
was at the Sunday-school, which he had never
once missed since Mr. Wilson the minister had
set up one in the parish. Was such a boy likely
to do such a deed !

A crowd was by this time got abont PriceV

Digitized by




df>or, among which were Giles and his boys,
who had already taken care to spread the news
that Tom Price was the thief. Most people
were unwiliinir to believe it His character
was vrry pood, but appearances were strongly
a^uinst him. Mr. Wilson, who had staid to
clirivteti a child, now came in. He was moch
concerned tliat Tom Price, the best boy in his
school, should stand accased of such a crime.
He sent for the boy, examined, and cross-ex-
a mined him. — No mart(s of gailt appeared.
But still though he pleaded not guilty ^ there lay
the red-streaks in his father's wmdow. All the
idle fellows in the place, who were most likely
to have committed such a thefl themselves, were
the very people who fell with vengeance on poor
Tom. The wicked seldom give any quarter.

* This is one of your sanctified ones I* cried the v.

* This was all the good that Sunday-schools did !
For their parts they never saw any good come
by religion. Sunday was the only day for a
little pastime, and if poor boys must be shut up
with their godly books, when they ought to be
out taking a little pleasure, it was no wonder
they made themselves amends by such tricks.*
Another said he should like to see parson Wil.
Ron^s riglitcous one well whipped. A third
hoped he would be clapped in the stocks for a
young hypocrite as he was ; while old Giles,
who thought the only way to avoid suspicion
was by beiiifj more violent than the rest, de-
clared, * that he hoped the young dog would be
transported for life.'

Mr. Wilson was too wise and too just to pro-
ceed against Tom without full proof — He de-
clared the crime was a very heavy one, and he
feared that heavy must be the punishment
Tom, who knew his own innocence, earnestly
prayed to Gnd that it might be made to appear
as clear as the noon-day ; and very fervent were
his secret devotions on that night.

Black Giles passed his night in a very differ-
ent manner. lie set oflTas soon as it was dark,
with his sons and their jack-asses, laden with
their stolen ^oods. As such a ciy was raised
about the apples, he did not think it safe to keep
Ihcm longer ut home, but resolved to go and sell
them at the next town ; borrowing without leave
a lame colt out of the moor to assist in carrying
off his booty.

Giles and his eldest sons had rare sport all the
way in thinkinnr, that while they were enjoying
the profit of their plunder, Tom Price would be
whipt round the market place at least, if not
sent beyond sea. But the younger boy Dick,
who had naturally a tender heart, though hard-
ened by his long familiarity with sin, could not
help crying, when he thought that Tom Price
might, perhaps, be transported for a crime which
he himself had helped to commit He had had
no compuclion about the robbery, for ho had not
been instructed in the groat principled of truth
and justice ; nor would he therefore, perhaps,
have had much remorse about accusing an in-
nocent boy. But though utterly devoid of prin-
ciple, he had some remains of natural feeling
and of gratitude. Tom Price had oAen given
him a bit of his own bread and cheese ; and once,
when Dick was like to be drowned, Tom had
jumped into the po:id with his clothes on, and

saved his life when he was just sinking ; the i«-
mcmbrance of all this made his heart heavy-
He said nothing ; but as he trotted barefoot
after the asses, he heard his father and bro-
thers laugh at having outwitted the gccJy ones ,
and he grieved to think how poor Tom would
suffer for his wickedness, yet fear kept him si-
lent ; they called him a sulky dog, and lashed
the asses till tbey bled.

In the mean time Tom .Price kept up his
spirits as well as he could. He worked hard
all day, and prayed heartily night and morning.
It is true, said he to himself, 1 am not guilty of
this sin ; but let this accusation set me on ex-
amining myself, and truly repenting of all my
other sins ; for I find enough to repent of, though
I thank God I did not steal the widow's ap

At length Sunday came, and Tom went to
school as usual. As soon as he walked in there
was a great deal of whispering and laughing
among the worst of the boys ; and he ovcraeard
them say, * Who would have thought it ? This
is master's favourite ! — ^This is parson Wilson's
sober Tommy ! We shan't have Tommy thrown
in our teeth again if we go to get a bird's nest,
or gather a few nuts on a Sunday.' * Your de
mure ones are always hypocrites,' says another.
— *The still sow sucks all the milk,' eays a

Giles's family bad always kept clear of the
BchvM>L Dick, indeed, had sometimes wished to
go ; not that he had much sense of sin, or de-
sire aAer goodness, but he thought if he could
once read, he might rise in the world, and not
be forced to drive asses all his life. Throngh
this whole Saturday night he could not sleep.
He longed to know what would be done to Tom.
He began to wish to go to school, but he had not
courage ; sin is very cowardly. So on the Sun-
day morning he went and sat himself down un-
der the church wall Mr. Wilson passed by. It
was not his way to reject the most wicked, till
he had tried evefy means to bring them over ;
and even then he pitied and prayed for them. —
He had, indeed, long lefl off talking to Giles's
sons ; but seeing Dick sitting by himself, he once
more spoke to him, desired him to leave off his
vagabond life, and go with him into the school
The boy hung down his head, but made no an-
swer. He did not, however, either rise up and
run away, or look sulky, as he used to do. The
minister desired him once more to ga 'Sir,'
said the boy, * I can't go ; I am so big I am
ashamed.' *The bigger vou are the less time
you have to lose.' But, sir, I can't read.' • Then
It is high time you should !earn.* * I should be
ashamed to begin to learn my letters.' * The
shame is not in begrinning to learn them, bat in
being contented never to know them.' — * Bat,
sir, 1 am so ragged !' * God looks at the heart,
and not at the coat' * But, sir, I have no shoes
and stockings.' 'So much the worse. I re-
member who gave you both — (Here Dick co-
loured.) It is bad to want shoes and stockings,
but still if you can drive your asses a dozen
miles without them, you may certainly walk a
hundred yards to school without them.* * But,
Sir, the good boys will hate me, and wont speak
to me ' — * Good boys hate nobody * ^nd ma tn not

Digitized by




•petkin^ to you, to be sure thej will not keep
jour company while yoa go on in your present
e?il courses, but as soon as they see you wish to
reform, they will help you, and pity you, and
teach you ; and so come along.* — Here Mr. Wil-
son took this dirty boy by the hand, and ^ntly
pulled him forward, kindly talking to him all
the way, in the most condescending manner.

How the whole school stared to see Dick Giles
come in ! No one however, dared to say what
he thought The business went on, and Dick
slunk into a corner, partiv to hide his rags, and
partly to hide his sin ; for last Sunday's trans-
action sat heavy on his heart, not because he
had stolen the apples, but because Tom Price
bad been accused. Thu, I say, made him slink
behind. Poor boy ! he little thought there was
OjfE saw him who sees all things, and fit>m
whose eye no hole nor corner can Aide the sin-
ner : * for he is about our bed, and about our
path, and spieth out all our ways.'

It was the custom in that school, and an ex-
cellent custom it is, for the master, who was a
good and wise man, to mark down in his pocket-
book ail the events of the week, that he might
turn tliem to some account in his Sunday even-
ing instructions ; such as any useful story in the
newspaper, any account of boys being drowned
as they were out in a pleasure boat on Sundays,
any sudden death in the parish, or any other re-
markable visitation of rrovidence; insomuch,
that many young people in the place, who did
not belong to the school, and many parents also,
used to drop in for an hour on a Sunday even-
ing, when tbey were sure to hear something
profitable. The minister greatly approved this
practice, and often called in himself which was
a great support to the master, and encourage-
ment to the people who attended.

The master had taken a deep concern in the
story of widow Brown's apple tree. He could
not believe Tom Price was guilty, nor dared he
pronounce him innocent ; but he resolved to turn
the instructions of the present evening to this
subject He began thus : * My dear boys, how-
ever light some of you may make of robbing an
orchard, yet I have often told yon there is no
such thing as a little sin, if it be wilful or habi-
tual. I wish now to explain to you, also, that
there is hardly such a thing as a single solitary
«n. You know I teach you not merely to re-
peat the commandments as an exercise for your

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 58 of 135)