Dick Lawson and the Young Mocking-Bird by T.S. Arthur
"I want a young mocking-bird. Can't you get me one?"
"I d'no, sir."
"Don't you think you could try?"
"I d'no, sir. P'r'aps I might."
"Well, see if you can't. I'll give you half a dollar for one."
"Will you? Then I'll try."
And off Dick started for the woods, without stopping for any further words on the subject.
The two individuals introduced are a good-natured farmer in easy circumstances, and a bright boy, the son of a poor woman in the neighbourhood.
As Dick Lawson was hurrying away for the woods, his mind all intent upon finding a nest of young mocking-birds, and despoiling it, he met a juvenile companion, named Henry Jones.
"Come, Harry," said he, in an animated voice, "I want you to go with me."
"Where are you going?" asked the friend.
"I am going to look for a mocking-bird's nest."
"To get a young one. Mr. Acres said he would give me half a dollar for a young mocking-bird."
"Yes, he did so!" was the animated reply.
"But don't he know that it's wrong to rob bird's nests!"
"If it had been wrong, Harry, Mr. Acres wouldn't have asked me to get him a bird. He knows what is right and wrong, as well as anybody about here."
"And so does Mr. Milman, our Sunday-school teacher; and he says that it is wicked to rob bird's nests. You know he has told us that a good many times."
"But Mr. Acres knows what is right as well as Mr. Milman, and if it had been wrong, he'd never have asked me to get him a bird. And then, you know, he says he will give me half a dollar for a single one."
"I wouldn't touch a bird's nest for ten dollars," rejoined Henry Jones, warmly.
"I would then," replied Dick, from whose mind the promised reward had, for the time, completely dispelled every tender impression received both from his mother, who had been very careful of her child, and his teacher at the Sunday-school. "But come," he added, "you'll go with me, anyhow."
"Not, if you are going to rob a bird's nest," firmly responded Henry. "It is wicked to do so."
"Wicked! I don't see any thing so very wicked about it. Mr. Acres is a good man, so everybody says, and I know he wouldn't tell me to do a wicked thing."
"I'm sure it is wicked," persevered Henry Jones, "for isn't it taking the poor little birds from their mother? Don't you think it would be wicked for some great giant to come and carry your little sister away off where you could never find her, and shut her up in a cage, and keep her there all her life?"
"No, but birds are not little children. It's a very different thing. But you needn't talk, Harry; for it's no use. If you'll go along, you shall have half the money I get for the bird--if not, why, I'll go myself and keep the whole of it."
"I wouldn't go with you for a hundred dollars," said Harry half-indignantly, turning away.
"Then I'll go myself," was Dick Lawson's sneering reply, as he sprang forward and hurried off to the woods.
He did not, however, feel very easy in mind, although he attempted first to whistle gayly, and then to sing. The remonstrance of Henry Jones had its effect in calling back previous better feelings, awakened by the precepts of a good mother and the instructions of a judicious Sabbath-school teacher. To oppose these, however, were the direct sanction of Mr. Acres, towards whom he had always been taught to look with respect, and the stimulating hope of a liberal reward. These were powerful incentives--but they could not hush the inward voice of disapprobation, that seemed to speak in a louder and sterner tone with every advancing step. Still, this voice, loud as it was, could not make him pause or hesitate. Onward he pursued his way, and soon entered the woods and old fields he had fixed in his mind as the scene of his operations.
An hour's diligent search ended in the discovery of a nest, in which were two young ones, with the mother bird feeding them. This sight softened Dick's heart for a moment, but the strong desire, instantly awakened, to possess the prize for which he had been seeking, caused him to drive off the old bird, who commenced fluttering about the spot, uttering cries and showing signs of deep distress. These, although he could not help feeling them, did not cause him to desist. In a few moments he had one of the birds safely in his possession, with which he bounded off in great delight.
"Well, Dick, have you got my bird?" said Mr. Acres, as Dick came puffing and blowing into his presence.
"Yes, indeed!" returned Dick with a broad smile of pleasure, presenting the bird he had abstracted from its warm, soft nest.
"You are a fine smart boy, Dick, and will make a man one of these days!" said Mr. Acres, patting Dick on the head encouragingly. Then, taking the bird, he toyed with it for a while fondly--fed it, and finally placed it in a cage. The promised half-dollar, which was promptly paid to the lad, made him feel rich. As he was about leaving the house of Mr. Acres, the latter called to him:
"Look here, Dick, my fine fellow, don't you want a dog? Here's Rover, the very chap for you."
"May I have Rover?" eagerly asked Dick, his eyes glistening with delight.
"Yes. I've more dogs now than I want."
"He fights well!" ejaculated Dick, surveying the dog proudly. As he did so, the animal, seeing himself noticed, walked up to Dick, and rubbed himself against the lad familiarly.
"He'll whip any dog in the neighbourhood," said Mr. Acres.
"And you'll give him to me?"
"Oh, yes. I've got too many dogs now."
"Here, Rover! Here, Rover! Here! Here! Here!" cried Dick in an animated tone, starting off. The dog followed quickly, and in a few moments both were out of sight.
"A smart chap that," remarked Mr. Acres to himself, as Dick bounded away. "He'll make something before he dies, I'll warrant."
The possession of the dog and half-dollar, especially the latter, were strongly objected to by Dick's mother.
"How could you, my son, think of robbing a poor bird of her little young ones?" said she seriously and reprovingly.
"But, mother, Mr. Acres wanted me to get him a bird, and of course I could not say 'no.' What would he have thought of me?"
"You never should do wrong for any one."
"But if it had been so very wrong, Mr. Acres never would have asked me to do it, I know," urged Dick.
Mrs. Lawson would have compelled her son to take back the money he had received, if almost any other person in the village but Mr. Acres had been concerned. But he was well off, and influential; and, moreover, was her landlord; and, though she was behindhand with her rent, he never took the trouble to ask for it. The dog, too, would have been sent back if any one but Mr. Acres had given it to her son. As it was, she contented herself with merely reprimanding Dick for robbing the bird's nest, and enjoining on him not to be guilty of so cruel an act again.
About three days after this event, Dick, accompanied by Rover--now his inseparable companion--met his young friend, Henry Jones, who had with him his father's large house-dog, Bose.
"Whose dog is that?" asked Henry.
"He's mine," replied Dick.
"Be sure he is."
"Why that is Mr. Acres's Rover."
"Not now he isn't. Mr. Acres gave him to me."
"What did he give him to you for?"
"For getting him a young mocking-bird."
"I thought he promised you half-a-dollar?"
"So he did; and what is more, gave it to me, and Rover into the bargain."
"Well, I wouldn't have robbed a bird's nest for a dozen Rovers," said Henry Jones, warmly.
"Wouldn't you, indeed?" returned Dick, with a sneer.
"No, I would not. It's wicked."
"Oh, you're very pious! But Rover can whip your Bose, anyhow."
"No, he can't, though," replied Henry quickly, who could not bear to hear his father's faithful and favourite old dog's courage called in question.
"Yes, but he can, ten times a day. There, Rover! There, sck!--sck!--sketch him!" At the same time pushing Rover against Bose.
Both dogs growled low, and showed their teeth, but that was all.
"Rover's afraid to touch him!" said Henry, a good deal excited.
"No, he is not, though!" returned Dick, his face glowing with interest; and, lifting up the forefeet of Rover, he threw him full against old Bose, who received the onset with a deep growl and a strong impression of his teeth on Rover.
This brought on the battle. Bose was nine or ten years old, and somewhat worn down by age and hard service, while Rover had numbered but two years, and was full of fire and vigor. Still the victory was not soon decided. During the fight, each of the boys entered into the spirit of the contest almost as much as the dogs. First one would interfere to secure for his favourite the victory, and then the other, until, at last, Dick struck Henry; and then they went at it likewise, and fought nearly as long, and certainly with as much desire to injure each other, as did the dogs themselves. The result was that both Henry and Bose had to yield, and then the parties separated, indulging against each other bitter and angry feelings. But with Dick there was an emotion of cruel delight at having triumphed over his friend. As he was crossing a field, on his way home, he met Mr. Acres.
"Why, what's the matter with you and Rover?" the farmer asked.
"Rover's had a fight," replied Dick.
"Ah! Who with?"
"Mr. Jones's Bose."
"Well, which whipped?"
"Rover, of course," replied Dick, with a smile of triumph; "and I can make him whip any thing."
"You're a keen chap, Dick," said Mr. Acres, patting the boy on the head, "and are going to make a man one of these days, I see plainly enough. So Rover whipped. I knew there was prime stuff in him."
"There isn't another such a fellow in these 'ere parts," was Dick's proud answer.
"But you look a little the worse for wear, as well as Rover. Have you been fighting, too?"
Dick held down his head for a moment, and then looking up into Mr. Acres's face, said--
"Yes, sir," in rather a sheepish way.
"Ah! well, who have you been fighting with?"
"With Harry Jones. He didn't want to give Rover fair play; and once, when he had Bose down, he kicked him."
"And then you kicked him for kicking your dog?"
"That was right. Never permit a friend to be imposed upon. And after that you had a regular fight?"
"I gave him a bloody nose; and shouldn't wonder if he had a black eye into the bargain. And what is more, made him cry 'enough.'"
"That was right. Never fight but in a good cause, and then be sure to whip your man."
"It'll take a smarter boy than Harry Jones to whip me," said Dick proudly.
"And you think Rover can whip any thing about here?"
"Yes, indeed. And I'm going to make him do it, too."
"You'd better not try him against Markland's old Nero."
"He'll whip him in ten minutes."
"I'm not so sure of that. Nero is a great deal bigger and stronger."
"I don't care if he is. I'm learning Rover a trick that'll make him whip a dog twice his size."
"What is that?"
Dick called Rover, and the dog came up to him wagging his tail.
"Give us your paw," said the boy, in a tone of authority.
The dog instantly lifted one of his forefeet, which Dick took in his hand, and began to squeeze gently at first, and then, by degrees, harder and harder, ejaculating all the while, in a quick distinct tone--"Leg him! leg him! leg him!" until the dog, from first indicating signs of pain, began to whine, and then to yell out as if in agony. At this, Dick dropped the foot, and looked up into the farmer's face.
"Well, Dick, what does all that mean?" asked Mr. Acres.
"I'm learning him to catch hold of the foot," replied the boy.
"The mischief you are!"
"Yes, sir. And when he's fairly up to it, he can whip any dog, if he's as big as an elephant."
"But can you learn him?"
"I made him catch Jones's Bose by the foot this morning, and it would have done your heart good to have heard him yell. If he isn't lame for a month, then I don't know any thing about it."
"There's no fear of you, I see," was Mr. Acres's encouraging reply to this, again patting Dick on the head.
In about two weeks from that time it was pretty well known through the neighbourhood that Dick Lawson had given out that he could make his Rover whip Markland's Nero, a noble animal that had never been matched by any dog around. Markland's son felt his pride in his dog touched at this, and challenged Dick to a battle. The time was set, and the place, a neighbouring field, chosen. Old and young seemed to take an interest in the matter, and when the time arrived, and Dick appeared on the ground with his dog, there were assembled, men and boys, at least one hundred persons, and among the rest, Mr. Acres, who began to feel somewhat drawn towards his protegé Dick.
The two dogs were brought forward by the two lads, whose parents knew nothing of the affair, and by pushing them against, and throwing them upon each other, irritated and angered them until they finally went to work in real earnest, greatly to the delight of the lookers-on. Rover fought bravely, but he was evidently no match for his larger and stronger antagonist, who tore him savagely, while he seemed unable to penetrate Nero's thick yielding skin. The shouts that arose from the group around were all in favour of Nero, who was a general favourite--as he was one of those large, peaceable, benevolent fellows, belieing his name, whom all liked, while there was something of the churl and savage about Rover, that caused him to have but few friends.
The contest had waged about ten minutes, fiercely, and Rover was evidently getting "worsted," when Dick, who had been constantly encouraging his dog, stooped close to his ear, and spoke something in a low, quick, energetic tone.
Instantly Rover crouched down, and darting forward, seized the forepaw of Nero in his mouth, and commenced gnawing it eagerly. The noble animal, thus unexpectedly and basely assailed, found the pain to which he was suddenly subjected so great as to take away all power of resistance. He would not utter a cry, but sat down, and permitted the other dog to gnaw away at his tender foot without a single sign of suffering. As the cry of pain, the dog's "enough," was to terminate the battle, the fine fellow was permitted thus to suffer for several minutes, before the bystanders came forward and pulled Dick Lawson's dog off. Nero would have died before a sound could have been extorted from him.
As Nero had not cried "enough," Bob Markland contended afterwards that his dog had not been whipped, to settle which difference of opinion he and Dick had several hard battles, in which the latter, like his dog, always came off the victor. The upshot of all these contests was, the expulsion of Dick from the Sabbath-school, into which he carried the bickerings engendered through the week. Another reason for his expulsion was the frequency with which he played truant, and of his having, in several instances, enticed other boys away from the school for the same purpose.
Except Mr. Acres, nearly every man, woman and child in the neighbourhood sincerely disliked, and some actually hated Dick Lawson, for there was hardly a family some member of which had not been annoyed by him in one form or another. But Mr. Acres liked the spirit of the lad, as well as his thorough independence in regard to the opinion of others.
This man, who had first thrown temptation into the lad's way, and encouraged him to persevere in a conduct which nearly all condemned, was not a wilfully bad man. By most people he was called a good-hearted, benevolent person. The truth was, he was not a wise man. When young, he had indulged in such amusements as catching young birds, fighting dogs and cocks, and attending horse-races, and all the exciting scenes to which he could get access. But none of these things corrupted him so far as to make him a decidedly bad man in the community. As he grew up, he gradually laid aside his boyish follies; saved up his money; bought himself a small farm, and, in time, became quite a substantial man, so far as worldly goods were concerned.
Contrasted with himself were several lads whose parents had been exceedingly strict with them, and who had, as they grew up, shaken off the trammels of childhood and youth, run into wild extravagances of conduct, and some into wicked and vicious habits, from which they were never reclaimed. Comparing his own case with theirs, his short-sighted conclusion was that boys ought to be allowed as much freedom as possible, and this was why he encouraged Dick, who was an exceedingly bright lad, in the course he had been so willing to pursue. He knew nothing at all of the different hereditary tendencies to evil that exist in the mind. His observation had never led him to see how two persons, raised in precisely the same manner, would turn out very differently--the one proving a good, and the other a bad citizen. His knowledge of human nature, therefore, never for a moment caused him to suspect, that in encouraging a feeling of cruelty in Dick Lawson, he might be only putting blood upon the tongue of a young lion--that there might be in his mind hereditary tendencies to evil, which encouragement to rob a bird's nest, or to set two dogs to fighting, by one occupying his position and influence, might cause to become so active as to ultimately make him a curse to society.
And such, in a year or two, Dick seemed becoming. He had in that time, although but fourteen years of age, got almost beyond his mother's control. His dog and himself were the terror of nearly all the dogs and boys in the neighbourhood, for both were surly, quarrelsome, and tyrannical. Even Mr. Acres had found it necessary to forbid him to appear on his premises. Rover having temporarily lamed, time after time, every one of his dogs, and Dick having twice beaten two of his black boys, farm-hands, because of some slight offence. To be revenged on him for this, he robbed a fine apricot-tree of all its fruit, both green and ripe, on the very night before Mr. Acres had promised to send a basket full, the first produced in the neighbourhood that spring, to a friend who was very much esteemed by him.
Though he strongly suspected Dick, yet he had no proof of the fact, and so made no attempt to have him punished.
Shortly after, the boy was apprenticed to a tanner and currier, a severe man, chosen as his master in the hope that his rigid discipline might do something towards reclaiming him. As the tanner had as many dogs as he wanted, he objected to the reception into his yard of Dick's ill-natured cur. But Dick told his mother that, unless Rover were allowed to go with him, he would not go to the trade selected for him. He was resolute in this, and at last Mrs. Lawson persuaded Mr. Skivers, the tanner, to take him, dog and all.
In his new place he did not get along, except for a very short time, without trouble. At the end of the third month, for neglect of work, bad language, and insolence, but particularly for cruelties practised upon a dog that had gotten the mastery over Rover, Mr. Skivers gave him a most tremendous beating. Dick resisted, and fought with might and main, but he was but a boy, and in the hands of a strong and determined man. For a time this cowed Dick, but in the same ratio that his courage fell when he thought of resisting his master single-handed, rose his bitter hate against him. Skivers was a man who, if he had reason to dislike any one about him, could not let his feelings remain quiescent. He must be doing something all the while to let the victim of his displeasure feel that he was no favourite. Towards Dick, he therefore maintained the most offensive demeanour, and was constantly saying or doing something to chafe the boy's feelings. This was borne as patiently as possible, for he did not again wish to enter into a contention in which he must inevitably get severely beaten. Skivers was not long in perceiving that the way to punish Dick the most severely was to abuse his dog; and he, therefore, commenced a systematic process of worrying Rover. This Dick could illy bear. Every time his master would drive Rover from the yard, or throw sticks or stones at him, the boy would make a new and more bitter vow of retaliation in some form.
One day, Rover and a large dog belonging to Skivers got into a fight about something. Dick's interest in his dog brought him at once to the scene of action. His master, seeing this, ordered him, in a harsh, angry tone, to clear out and mind his own business. As he did so, he took a large club, and commenced beating Rover in a most cruel manner. Dick could not stand this. His blood was up to fever heat in an instant. Seizing a long, heavy pole, used for turning and adjusting hides in the vats, he sprang towards Skivers, and giving it a rapid sweep, brought it with tremendous force against his head, knocking him into a vat half-full of a strong infusion of astringent bark, to the bottom of which he instantly sank.
So incensed did the lad feel, that he made not the slightest attempt to extricate his master from a situation in which death must have inevitably ensued in a few minutes, but walked away to another part of the yard. Two or three journeymen, however, who witnessed the whole affair, were on the spot in a moment, and took out the body of Skivers. He was completely insensible. There was the bloody mark of a large wound on his head. A physician was immediately called, who bled him profusely. This brought him back to consciousness. In a day or two he was out again, and apparently as well as ever. In the mean time, both Dick and his inseparable companion, Rover, had disappeared, and gone no one knew whither. No effort was made to discover the place to which the boy had fled, as every one was too much rejoiced that he had left the village, to care about getting him back. About twelve months after, his mother died--her gray hairs brought down to the grave in sorrow. Year after year then passed away, and the memory of the lad was gradually effaced from the minds of all, or retained only among the dim recollections of the past.
Mr. Acres, who had first placed temptation in the way of Dick Lawson, continued to prosper in all external things, and to hold his position of influence and respectability in the neighbourhood. He, perhaps, more than others, thought about the lad in whom he had once felt a good deal of pride and interest, as exhibiting a fair promise for the future. But he never felt exactly easy in mind when he did think of him. Something whispered that, perhaps, he had been to blame in encouraging his wild habits. But, then, how could he have dreamed, he would argue, that the boy had in him so strong a tendency to evil as the result had proved. He had once been just as fond as Dick had shown himself to be of bird's-nesting, dog-fighting, &c., but then, as soon as he had sown a few wild oats, he sobered down into a steady and thrifty farmer of regular habits. And he of course expected to see Dick Lawson do the same.
"And who knows but that he has?" he would sometimes say, in an effort at self-consolation.
It was some five or six years from the time Dick left the village, that Mr. Acres was awakened one night from sleep by a dream that some one had opened the door of the chamber where he slept. So distinct was the impression on his mind that some one had entered, that he lay perfectly still, with his eyes peering into the darkness around, in order to detect the presence of any one, should the impression on his mind really be true. He had lain thus, with every sense acutely active, for only a moment or two, when a sound, as of a stealthy footstep, came distinctly upon his ear, and at the same moment, a dark body seemed to move before his eyes, as if crossing the room towards that part of it where stood a large secretary, in which was usually contained considerable sums of money.
Mr. Acres was a brave man, but thus suddenly awakened from sleep to find himself placed in such an emergency, made him tremble. He continued to lie very still, straining his eyes upon the dark moving object intently, until the figure of a man became perfectly distinct. The robber, for such the intruder evidently was, had now reached the secretary, where he stood for a few moments, quietly endeavouring to open it. Finding it locked, he moved off, and passed around the room, feeling every chair and table that came in his way. This Mr. Acres could now distinctly perceive, as his eyes had become used to the feeble light reflected from the starry sky without. At last his hands came in contact with a chair upon which the farmer had laid his clothes on disrobing himself for bed. These seemed to be the objects of his search, for he paused with a quick eager movement, and commenced searching the ample pockets of a large waistcoat. The slight jingle of the farmer's bunch of keys soon explained the movement. Before the robber had fairly gotten back to the secretary, Mr. Acres's courage had returned, and with it no small share of indignation. He rose up silently, but, unfortunately, as his foot touched the floor, it came in contact with a chair, which was thrown over with a loud noise. Before he could reach a large cane, for which he was making, a heavy blow from the robber laid him senseless.
When again conscious, Mr. Acres found himself still in total darkness. On attempting to move, there was an instant, almost intolerable pain in his head, as if from a violent blow. On lifting his hand and placing it upon the spot where the pain seemed most severe, it came in contact with a cold, slimy mass of what he at once knew to be blood. His first effort to rise was accompanied by a feeling of faintness, that caused him to stretch himself again upon the floor, where he lay for some time endeavouring to collect his scattered senses. After he had fully comprehended the meaning of his alarming situation, he made another and more successful effort to rise. Sitting up in the middle of the room, and straining his eyes into the darkness, he began to see more and more distinctly each moment. He was soon satisfied that he was alone. It did not take long after this to arouse the whole house. An examination resulted in ascertaining the fact that his secretary had been robbed of five hundred dollars in gold.
By daylight, the whole neighbourhood was aroused, and some twenty or thirty men were in hot pursuit of the robber, who was arrested about twenty miles away from the village and brought back. The money taken from the secretary of Mr. Acres, was found upon his person, and fully identified. The man proved to be quite young, seeming to have passed but recently beyond the limit of minority. But even young as he was, there was a look of cruel and hardened villany about him, and an expression of settled defiance of all consequences. He gave his name as Frederick Hildich. A brief examination resulted in his committal to await the result of a trial for burglary at the next court.
The day of trial at length came. The action of the court was brief, as no defence was set up, and the proof of the crime clear and to the point. During the progress of the trial, the prisoner seemed to take little interest in what was going on around him, but sat in the bar, with his head down, seemingly lost in deep abstraction of mind. At the conclusion of the proceedings, when the court asked what he had to say why the sentence of the law should not be pronounced upon him, the prisoner slowly arose to his feet, lifted his head, glanced calmly around for a few moments, until his eyes rested upon Mr. Acres, whom he regarded for some time with a fixed, penetrating, and meaning look. Then, turning to the Bench, he said in a firm, distinct voice:
"YOUR HONOUR--Although I have nothing to urge against the execution of the laws by which I am condemned, I would yet crave the privilege of making a few remarks, which may, perhaps, be useful. The principal witness against me is Mr. Acres,--and upon his testimony, mainly, so far as positive proof goes, I am convicted of a crime, the commission of which I have no particular reason for wishing to deny. But, if I have wronged him, how far more deeply has he wronged me. If I have robbed him of a few paltry dollars, he has robbed me of that which he can never restore, either here or hereafter. In a word, your honour, I stand here, in the presence of this court, and the people of this town, and charge upon that man (pointing to Acres) the cause of my present condition. My real name is Richard Lawson!"
As he said this, the prisoner's voice failed him, and he paused for a few moments, overcome with emotion. A universal exclamation of surprise passed through the court-room, and there was scarcely an individual present who did not wonder why he had not discovered this fact for himself long before. For, sure enough, it was Dick Lawson, and no one else, who stood there humbled under the iron hand of the law. As for Mr. Acres, he became instantly pale and agitated--and when the prisoner again looked up and fixed his eyes upon him, his own fell to the floor, as if he were conscience-stricken.
"To that man," resumed the individual, at the bar, pointing steadily toward the farmer, "as I just said, am I indebted for my ruin. A wild, but innocent boy, he first led me into conscious wrong, by tempting me with money to rob a bird's nest. The young mocking-bird was procured for him, but at the expense of a violated conscience; for a voice within me spoke loudly against the act of cruelty about to be practised upon the mother-bird and her young. But I stifled that inward monitor, and stilled the voice that urged me to depart not from the path of innocence. I saw that the act was a cruel one, and felt that it was a cruel one--but to be asked to do even a wrong act by a man to whom I looked up, as I then did to Mr. Acres, was to rob the wrong act of more than half of its apparent evil--and so I performed the cruel deed, small as it was, deliberately. From the moment I took the young bird in my hand, all my scruples were gone, and after that it was one of my greatest pleasures to rob birds' nests, and to kill the older birds with stones. My dog Rover, who is no doubt as well remembered as myself, was given me by Mr. Acres, and I was, moreover, encouraged by that individual to make Rover fight, and to fight myself, whenever it came in the way. Had he discouraged this in me; had he told me that fighting was wrong, his precept for good would have been as powerful as his precept for evil. He was kind to me, and had gained my entire confidence, and could have made almost any thing of me. My cruel, tyrannizing temper, thus encouraged, grew rapidly, until at last I took no delight in any good. Finally expelled from the Sabbath-school, and persecuted for my ill-behaviour and annoyance of almost every one, I became reckless, and finally left this neighbourhood. Five or six years of evil brought me at last into a strait. I could not gain even a common livelihood. I must starve or beg. In this state I thought of my corrupter--of the man who had been the cause of my wretchedness, and I resolved that he should, at least, pay some small penalty for what he had done. In a word, I resolved to rob him--and did so. And now I stand here to await the sentence of the law for this crime."
The prisoner then suffered his head to fall upon his bosom, and sank slowly into the seat from which he had arisen. A profound and oppressive silence reigned through the court-room, broken at last by the judge, who said--
"Richard Lawson, alias Frederick Hildich, stand up, and receive the sentence of the law."
The prisoner arose, and looked the judge steadily in the face, while a sentence of imprisonment in the penitentiary for three years was pronounced upon him in a voice of assumed sternness.
When the unfortunate man was removed by an officer, the crowd slowly withdrew, conversing in low, subdued voices, and Mr. Acres turned his step homeward, the unhappiest man of all who had stood that day in the presence of offended justice.
And here we must leave the parties most concerned in the events of our brief story--Richard Lawson to fill up the term of his imprisonment in the penitentiary; and Mr. Acres to muse, in painful abstraction, over the ruin his thoughtlessness had wrought--the ruin of an immortal soul--the corruption of a fellow creature, born to become an angel of heaven, but changed by his agency into a fit subject for the abodes of evil spirits in hell.