There was once a little Boy who was so unfortunate as to have for his father a very bad man, who was always surly and ill-tempered, and never gave his children either good instructions or good example; in consequence of which this little Boy, who might otherwise have been happier and better, became ill-natured, quarrelsome, and disagreeable to everybody. He very often was severely beaten for his impertinence by boys bigger than himself, and sometimes by boys that were less; for, though he was very abusive and quarrelsome, he did not much like fighting, and generally trusted more to his heels than his courage when he had involved himself in a quarrel. This little Boy had cur-dog that was the exact image of himself; he was the most troublesome, surly creature imaginable, always barking at the heels of every horse he came near, and worrying every sheep he could meet; for which reason both the dog and the boy were disliked by all the neighbourhood.
One morning his father got up early to go to the alehouse, where he intended to stay till night, as it was a holiday; but before he went out, he gave his son some bread and cold meat and sixpence, and told him he might go and amuse himself as he liked the whole day. The little Boy was much pleased with this liberty; and, as it was a very fine morning, he called his dog Tiger to follow him, and began his walk.
He had not proceeded far before he met a little boy driving a flock of sheep towards a gate that he wanted them to enter. Pray, master, said the little boy, stand still, and keep your dog close to you, for fear of frightening my sheep. Oh! yes, to be sure! answered the ill-natured Boy, I am to wait here all the morning till you and your sheep have passed, I suppose! Here, Tiger, seize them, boy! Tiger at this sprang forward into the middle of the flock, barking and biting on every side, and the sheep, in a general consternation, hurried each a separate way. Tiger seemed to enjoy this sport equally with his master. But in the midst of his triumph he happened unguardedly to attack an old ram that had more courage than the rest of the flock; the ram, instead of running away, faced about and aimed a blow with his forehead at his enemy, with so much force and dexterity, that he knocked Tiger over and over, and, butting him several times while he was down, obliged him to limp howling away.
The ill-natured little Boy, who was not capable of loving anything, had been much amused with the trepidation of the sheep; but now he laughed heartily at the misfortune of his dog, and he would have laughed much longer, had not the other boy, provoked beyond all patience at this treatment, thrown a stone at his tormentor, which hit him full upon the temples, and almost knocked him down. The cowardly Boy immediately began to cry in concert with his dog; and perceiving a man coming towards them, who he fancied might be the owner of the sheep, he thought it most prudent to escape as speedily as possible.
But he had scarcely recovered from the smart which the blow had occasioned, before his former mischievous disposition returned, which he determined to gratify to the utmost. He had not gone far, before he saw a little girl standing by a stile with a large pot of milk at her feet. Pray, said the little girl, help me up with this pot of milk. My mother sent me out to fetch it this morning, and I have brought it above a mile upon my head, but I am so tired that I have been obliged to stop at this stile to rest myself; and if I don't return home presently, we shall have no pudding to-day, and, besides, my mother will be very angry with me. What said the Boy, you are to have pudding to-day, are you, miss? Yes, said the girl, and a fine piece of roast beef; for there's Uncle Will, and Uncle John, and Grandfather, and all my cousins to dine with us, and we shall be very merry in the evening, I can assure you; so pray help me up as speedily as possible. That I will, miss, said the Boy; and taking up the jug, he pretended to fix it upon her head; but just as she had hold of it, he gave it a little push as if he had stumbled, and overturned it upon her. The little girl began to cry violently, but the mischievous boy ran away laughing heartily, and saying, Good-bye, little miss; give my humble service to Uncle Will, and Grandfather, and the dear little cousins.
This prank encouraged him very much, for he thought he had now certainly escaped without any bad consequences; so he went on, applauding his own ingenuity, and came to a green where several little boys were at play. He desired leave to play with them, which they allowed him to do. But he could not be contented long, without exercising his evil disposition; so taking an opportunity when it was his turn to fling the ball, instead of flinging it the way he ought to have done, he threw it into a deep muddy ditch. The little boys ran in a great hurry to see what had become of it, and as they were standing together upon the brink, he gave the outermost boy a violent push against his neighbour; he, not being able to resist the shock, tumbled against the next, that next against another, and finally they were all soused in the ditch together. They soon scrambled out, although in a dirty plight, and were going to have punished him for his ill behaviour; but he patted Tiger upon the back, and the dog began snarling and growling in such a manner, as made them desist. Thus this mischievous little boy escaped a second time with impunity.
The next thing that he met with was a poor jackass feeding very quietly in a ditch. The little Boy, seeing that nobody was within sight, thought this an opportunity of plaguing an animal not to be lost; so he went and cut a large bunch of thorns, which he contrived to fix upon the poor beast's tail, and then setting Tiger at him, he was extremely delighted to see the fright and agony the creature was in. But it did not fare so well with Tiger, who, while he was baying and biting the animal's heels, received so severe a kick upon his forehead, that he fell dead upon the spot. The Boy, who had no affection for his dog, left him with the greatest unconcern, when he saw what had happened, and finding himself hungry, sat down by the way-side to eat his dinner.
He had not been long there, before a poor blind man came groping his way out with a couple of sticks. Good morning to you, gaffer, said the Boy; pray did you see a little girl come this road, with a basket of eggs upon her head, dressed in a green gown, with a straw hat upon her head? God bless you, master, said the beggar, I am so blind that I can see nothing; I have been blind these twenty years, and they call me poor old blind Richard.
Though this poor man was such an object of charity and compassion, yet the little Boy determined as usual, to play him some trick; and, as he was a great liar and hypocrite, he spoke to him thus: Poor old Richard! I am sorry for you with all my heart; I am just eating my breakfast, and if you will sit down by me, I will give you part, and feed you myself Thank you with all my heart, said the poor man; and if you will give me your hand, I will sit by you with great pleasure, my dear, good little master! The little Boy then gave him his hand, and, pretending to direct him, guided him to sit down in a large heap of wet mud that lay by the road side. There, said he, now you are nicely seated, and I will feed you. So, taking a little in his fingers, he was going to put it into the blind man's mouth; but the man, who now perceived the trick that had been played him, made a sudden snap at the boy's fingers, and getting them between his teeth, bit them so severely, that the little rascal roared out for mercy, and promised never more to be guilty of such wickedness. At last, after he had put him to very severe pain, the blind man consented to let him go, saying as he went, Are you not ashamed, you little scoundrel, to attempt to harm those who have never injured you, and to want to add to the sufferings of poor men who are already sufficiently miserable? Although you escape now, be assured, that if you do not repent and mend your manners, you will meet with a severe punishment for your bad behaviour.
One would think, that this severe lesson would have cured the boy entirely of his mischievous disposition; but unfortunately, nothing is so difficult to overcome as bad habits that have been long indulged. He had not gone far, before he saw a lame beggar who just made a shift to support himself by means of a couple of sticks. The beggar asked the little Boy to give him something, and the little mischievous wretch, pulling out his sixpence, threw it down just before him, as if he intended to make him a present of it; but, while the poor man was stooping with difficulty to pick it up, this wicked Boy knocked the stick away, so that the beggar fell down upon his face; and then snatching up the sixpence, the Boy ran away, laughing very heartily at the accident.
This was the last trick this ungracious boy had it in his power to play; for, seeing two men come up to the beggar, and enter into conversation with him, he was afraid of being pursued, and therefore ran as fast as he was able over several fields. At last he came into a lane which led to a farmer's orchard, and as he was preparing to clamber over the fence, a large dog seized him by the leg, and held him fast. He cried out in an agony of terror, which brought out the farmer, who called the dog off, but seized the Boy very roughly, saying, So! sir, you are caught at last, are you? You thought you might come day after day and steal my apples, without detection; but it seems you are mistaken, and now you shall receive the punishment you have so long deserved. The farmer then began to chastise him very severely with a whip he had in his hand, and the Boy in vain protested he was innocent, and begged for mercy. At last the farmer asked him who he was, and where he lived; but when he heard his name, he cried out, What, are you the little rascal that frightened my sheep this morning, so that several of them are lost; and do you think to escape? Saying this, he lashed him more severely than before, in spite of all his cries and protestations. At length, thinking he had punished him enough, he turned him out of the orchard, bade him go home, and frighten sheep again if he liked the consequences.
The little Boy slunk away, crying very bitterly, for he had been very severely beaten; and now began to find that no one can continue to hurt others with impunity; so he determined to go quietly home, and behave better for the future.
But his sufferings were not yet at an end, for, as he jumped down from a stile, he felt himself very roughly seized; and looking up, found that he was in the power of the lame beggar whom he had thrown upon his face. It was in vain that he cried, entreated, and begged pardon; the man, who had been much hurt by his fall, thrashed him very severely with his stick, before he would part with him. The boy now again went on, crying and roaring with pain but at least expecting to escape without farther damage. He was mistaken, however; for walking slowly through a lane, he turned a corner and found himself in the middle of the very troop of boys he had used so ill in the morning. They all set up a shout as soon as they saw their enemy in their power without his dog, and began persecuting him in a thousand various ways. Some pulled him by the hair, others pinched him; some whipped his legs with their handkerchiefs, while others covered him with handfuls of dirt. In vain did he attempt to escape; they were still at his heels, and surrounding him on every side, continued their persecutions. At length, while he was in this disagreeable situation, he happened to come up to the same jackass he had seen in the morning; and making a sudden spring jumped upon his back, hoping thus to escape. The boys immediately renewed their shouts; and the ass, frightened at the noise, began galloping with all his might, and presently bore his rider from the reach of his enemies. But the ill-natured Boy had little reason to rejoice at this escape; for he found it impossible to stop the animal, and was every instant afraid of being thrown off, and dashed upon the ground. After he had been thus hurried along a considerable time, the ass on a sudden stopped short at the door of a cottage, and began kicking and prancing with so much fury that the little Boy was thrown to the ground, and broke his leg in the fall. His cries immediately brought out the family, among whom was the very little girl he had used so ill in the morning. But she, with the greatest good nature, seeing him in such a pitiable situation, assisted in bringing him in, and laying him upon the bed. There this unfortunate Boy had leisure to recollect himself, and reflect upon his own bad behaviour, which in one day's time, had exposed him to such a variety of misfortunes; and he determined, with great sincerity, that, if ever he recovered from his accident, he would be as careful to take every opportunity of doing good, as he had before been to perpetrate every species of mischief.