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the next morning, to make matters worse, they heard that the animals had been found in a plantation of young trees, where they had done a great deal of mischief, and that the owner of the trees would not give up the donkeys until the damage was paid for. “How they could get in that plantation, which is more than three miles away,” said the poor woman, “ is more than we can tell; for my husband met some young gentlemen, who told him that they saw his donkeys going down to the Salts, which is quite another road.” But there they were, and poor blind Dick was obliged to go to see after his donkeys, and pay for the mischief they had done. Alas! it took all the money they had hoarded up to pay for half a year's rent. “And what with one thing and another,” continued the old woman, “our money is all gone ; and
what is worse, my poor old man has been so ill ever since with pains in his head and limbs, and with trouble, that he has not been able to go out to sell anything, and we must sell the poor donkeys-and then what will become of us ?” So saying, she burst into loud lamentations.
Boys are not naturally hard-hearted. Thoughtless they too often may be; but when distress is plainly seen before them, there are few who would not try to relieve it. A subscription was set on foot outside of the cottage door, and a noble pile of halfpence, and some silver, too, was soon seen on the poor woman's counter. Before they left, Mr. Weston, the usher, had also asked to see poor blind Dick, and was shown into his bed-room. He found him, indeed, very unwell, and needing better medical skill than the poor
lame wife possessed: that, at least, was Mr. Weston's opinion.
But William-what did he think of his “ good fun,” his “capital trick,” now? We shall see. We may as well say, however, that when his companions were returning to the Crossway Willow, he slipped back to the cottage unperceived, and that, though he was known to have had several shillings in his purse only a day or two before, he had not sixpence of it left when he reached home that afternoon.
Frank and Harry too, when they saw their schoolfellows coming towards them, and read in their looks that something was amiss with poor blind Dick, we can answer for them, felt as they never wished to feel again. Their “ good fun” had long before passed away ; and
now shame and dread pressed hard upon them.
Long and deep were the consultations which William, Harry, and Frank held with each other as they walked slowly homewards, and apart from their companions. There was one terrible consideration which distressed them beyond measure. It was bad enough, they felt, to have brought ruin upon poor blind Dick, or any one ; but suppose he should die! They could see that there was only one proper course for them to pursue to atone for the evil they had done ; and, happily, their fears prompted them to do what their consciences dictated :-as soon as they reached the school they sought their good, kind master, and made a full and open confession of their folly and sin.
We hold it to be a very good maxim not to speak of punishments out of school hours ; and we therefore shall not proclaim what penance was enjoined on the three self-convicted and repenting boys. But it may readily be supposed that means were speedily taken to remedy the evils they had already brought on poor blind Dick, and to counteract that which was dreaded. On learning from Mr. Weston that the old man was really ill, the considerate schoolmaster instantly sent a doctor to him; and it was no small relief to William and his fellow transgressors to hear that no immediate danger was to be apprehended. A few days after, William received a letter from his father, to the following effect :