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hands in despair. “Poor silly things!” he said; "they got out of my paddock where they were well off; and if they get on to the Salts now the tide is running in, they'll be drowned; they'll be drowned, they will ;” and off he ran, faster than ever.
Not to lay more blame upon either William, Harry, or Frank, than they deserved, we must say that they, of course, knew that there was no danger of the animals being drowned; if there had been, they would, in all probability, have accompanied poor blind Dick, and assisted him in saving them. It would have been “good fun” to have spattered through the swampy Salts in a donkey chase. The worst result of their joke would be, as they supposed, that blind Dick would have a lost journey, and a little anxiety; and that the poor animals would be sure to
find their way home before night; and then all would be well. But we shall see how far they were right.
In the mean time the boys did not think it wise to continue their walk to the cake shop. Blind Dick had not recognised them; but lame Mary would know them well enough, and if the trick were found out, it might be the worse for them in more ways than one. So they returned, full of glee, at the capital joke they had played. They were prudent enough, however, to say nothing about the matter to their schoolfellows, who could but wonder what mighty secret the three boys had got hold of, to make them so merry for many days after their walk to the Crossway Willow.
The day came when blind Dick should have paid his weekly visit to the school with his cart-load of apples; and many
were the sly schemes which Frank, William, and Harry had contrived for drawing from him the history of his adventures on the Salts. But, to their disappointment, Dick did not arrive. This was strange; for his best fruit was just in season, and he was sure of a good market in the play ground. The jokers, especially, were more than disappointed; they became secretly alarmed, though they tried to conceal from each other their fears. They could not but feel that there might be danger to a dim-sighted and feeble old man in venturing upon the Salts when the tide was running out, and the creeks and ditches yet full of water; and they began to wish that their trick had remained unplayed. So true it is—. “If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains ;
If WELL, the pain doth fade, the joy remains." In truth, for the truth should be told, they could not avoid thinking that there was no real fun, after all, in putting an old man in peril; and besides, the lie they had told began to trouble their consciences.
Another week passed, and the young culprits buoyed themselves up with the hope that on the succeeding Saturday blind Dick and his donkeys would make their appearance. They no longer, however, found courage to get together and have a sly laugh at their old trick; they rather shunned each other: and when, at length, another Saturday came, and no poor blind Dick, they all became seriously alarmed, and could keep council in their own bearts no longer. True, when they plucked up courage to mention the old man's name, Frank tried to laugh at William's fears, and Harry to find a good reason for blind Dick's absence; but it would not do: it was plain that each would have given his whole quarter's pocket money to have heard one shout of Dick's cheerful voice—“ Now boys, here's your nice golden pippins !".
Saturday afternoon was a school holiday thirty years ago, just as it is now; and on this particular afternoon the boys had been promised a good walk ; so when the time came, it remained to be discussed which road they should take.
“ To the Crossway Willow !" shouted several of the boys; "and then," added another, “we can see what is become of blind Dick.” It was neither Frank, Harry, nor William, who said this. Anxious as they were to know why the old man had kept away for two weeks, they dared not express their anxieties; could they have managed it, they would much rather have remained in the play-ground, or taken a