In the pleasant valley of Ashton there lived an elderly woman of the name
of Preston. She had a small neat cottage, and there was not a weed to be
seen in her garden. It was upon her garden that she chiefly depended for
support; it consisted of strawberry beds, and one small border for
flowers. The pinks and roses she tied up in nice nosegays, and sent
either to Clifton or Bristol to be sold. As to her strawberries, she did
not send them to market, because it was the custom for numbers of people
to come from Clifton, in the summer time, to eat strawberries and cream
at the gardens in Ashton.
Now, the widow Preston was so obliging, active and good-humoured, that
everyone who came to see her was pleased. She lived happily in this
manner for several years; but, alas! one autumn she fell sick, and,
during her illness, everything went wrong; her garden was neglected, her
cow died, and all the money which she had saved was spent in paying for
medicines. The winter passed away, while she was so weak that she could
earn but little by her work; and when the summer came, her rent was
called for, and the rent was not ready in her little purse as usual. She
begged a few months’ delay, and they were granted to her; but at the end
of that time there was no resource but to sell her horse Lightfoot. Now
Lightfoot, though perhaps he had seen his best days, was a very great
favourite. In his youth he had always carried the dame to the market
behind her husband; and it was now her little son Jem’s turn to ride him.
It was Jem’s business to feed Lightfoot, and to take care of him–a
charge which he never neglected, for, besides being a very good natured,
he was a very industrious boy.
“It will go near to break my Jem’s heart,” said Dame Preston to herself,
as she sat one evening beside the fire stirring the embers, and
considering how she had best open the matter to her son, who stood
opposite to her, eating a dry crust of bread very heartily for supper.
“Jem,” said the old woman, “what, ar’t hungry?”
“That I am, brave and hungry!”
“Ay! no wonder, you’ve been brave hard at work–Eh?”
“Brave hard! I wish it was not so dark, mother, that you might just step
out and see the great bed I’ve dug; I know you’d say it was no bad day’s
work–and oh, mother! I’ve good news: Farmer Truck will give us the
giant strawberries, and I’m to go for ’em tomorrow morning, and I’ll be
back afore breakfast.”
“God bless the boy! how he talks!–Four mile there, and four mile back
again, afore breakfast.”
“Ay, upon Lightfoot, you know, mother, very easily; mayn’t I?”
“Why do you sigh, mother?”
“Finish thy supper, child.”
“I’ve done!” cried Jem, swallowing the last mouthful hastily, as if he
thought he had been too long at supper–“and now for the great needle; I
must see and mend Lightfoot’s bridle afore I go to bed.”
To work he set, by the light of the fire, and the dame having once more
stirred it, began again with “Jem, dear, does he go lame at all now?”
“What, Lightfoot! Oh, la, no, not he–never was so well of his lameness
in all his life. He’s grown quite young again, I think, and then he’s so
fat he can hardly wag.”
“God bless him–that’s right. We must see, Jem, and keep him fat.”
“For what, mother?”
“For Monday fortnight at the fair. He’s to be–sold!”
“Lightfoot!” cried Jem, and let the bridle fall from his hand; “and WILL
mother sell Lightfoot?”
“WILL? no: but I MUST, Jem.”
“MUST! who says you MUST? why MUST you, mother?”
“I must, I say, child. Why, must not I pay my debts honestly; and must
not I pay my rent, and was not it called for long and long ago; and have
not I had time; and did not I promise to pay it for certain Monday
fortnight, and am not I two guineas short; and where am I to get two
guineas? So what signifies talking, child?” said the widow, leaning her
head upon her arm. “Lightfoot MUST go.”
Jem was silent for a few minutes–“Two guineas, that’s a great, great
deal. If I worked, and worked, and worked ever so hard, I could no ways
earn two guineas AFORE Monday fortnight–could I, mother?”
“Lord help thee, no; not an’ work thyself to death.”
“But I could earn something, though, I say,” cried Jem, proudly; “and I
WILL earn SOMETHING–if it be ever so little, it will be SOMETHING–and I
shall do my very best; so I will.”
“That I’m sure of, my child,” said his mother, drawing him towards her
and kissing him; “you were always a good, industrious lad, THAT I will
say afore your face or behind your back;–but it won’t do now–Lightfoot
Jem turned away struggling to hide his tears, and went to bed without
saying a word more. But he knew that crying would do no good; so he
presently wiped his eyes, and lay awake, considering what he could
possibly do to save the horse. “If I get ever so little,” he still said
to himself, “it will be SOMETHING; and who knows but landlord might then
wait a bit longer? and we might make it all up in time; for a penny a day
might come to two guineas in time.”
But how to get the first penny was the question. Then he recollected
that one day, when he had been sent to Clifton to sell some flowers, he
had seen an old woman with a board beside her covered with various
sparkling stones, which people stopped to look at as they passed, and he
remembered that some people bought the stones; one paid twopence, another
threepence, and another sixpence for them; and Jem heard her say that she
got them amongst the neighbouring rocks: so he thought that if he tried
he might find some too, and sell them as she had done.
Early in the morning he wakened full of this scheme, jumped up, dressed
himself, and, having given one look at poor Lightfoot in his stable, set
off to Clifton in search of the old woman, to inquire where she found her
sparkling stones. But it was too early in the morning, the old woman was
not at her seat; so he turned back again, disappointed. He did not waste
his time waiting for her, but saddled and bridled Lightfoot, and went to
Farmer Truck’s for the giant strawberries.
A great part of the morning was spent in putting them into the ground;
and, as soon as that was finished, he set out again in quest of the old
woman, whom, to his great joy, he spied sitting at her corner of the
street with her board before her. But this old woman was deaf and cross;
and when at last Jem made her hear his questions, he could get no answer
from her, but that she found the fossils where he would never find any
more. “But can’t I look where you looked?”
“Look away, nobody hinders you,” replied the old woman; and these were
the only words she would say.
Jem was not, however, a boy to be easily discouraged; he went to the
rocks, and walked slowly along, looking at all the stones as he passed.
Presently he came to a place where a number of men were at work loosening
some large rocks, and one amongst the workmen was stooping down looking
for something very eagerly; Jem ran up, and asked if he could help him.
“Yes,” said the man, “you can; I’ve just dropped, amongst this heap of
rubbish, a fine piece of crystal that I got to-day.”
“What kind of a looking thing is it?” said Jem.
“White, and like glass,” said the man, and went on working whilst Jem
looked very carefully over the heap of rubbish for a great while.
“Come,” said the man, “it’s gone for ever; don’t trouble yourself any
more, my boy.”
“It’s no trouble; I’ll look a little longer; we’ll not give it up so
soon,” said Jem; and after he had looked a little longer, he found the
piece of crystal.
“Thank’e,” said the man, “you are a fine little industrious fellow.”
Jem, encouraged by the tone of voice in which the man spoke this,
ventured to ask him the same questions which he had asked the old woman.
“One good turn deserves another,” said the man; “we are going to dinner
just now, and shall leave off work–wait for me here, and I’ll make it
worth your while.”
Jem waited; and, as he was very attentively observing how the workmen
went on with their work, he heard somebody near him give a great yawn,
and, turning round, he saw stretched upon the grass, beside the river, a
boy about his own age, who, in the village of Ashton, as he knew, went by
the name of Lazy Lawrence–a name which he most justly deserved, for he
never did anything from morning to night. He neither worked nor played,
but sauntered or lounged about restless and yawning. His father was an
ale-house keeper, and being generally drunk, could take no care of his
son; so that Lazy Lawrence grew every day worse and worse. However, some
of the neighbours said that he was a good natured, poor fellow enough,
and would never do anyone harm but himself; whilst others, who were
wiser, often shook their heads, and told him that idleness was the root
of all evil.
“What, Lawrence!” cried Jem to him, when he saw him lying upon the grass;
“what, are you asleep?”
“Are you awake?”
“What are you doing there?”
“What are you thinking of?”
“What makes you lie there?”
“I don’t know–because I can’t find anybody to play with me to-day. Will
you come and play?”
“No, I can’t; I’m busy.”
“Busy,” cried Lawrence, stretching himself, “you are always busy. I
would not be you for the world, to have so much to do always.”
“And I,” said Jem, laughing, “would not be you for the world, to have
nothing to do.”
They then parted, for the workman just then called Jem to follow him. He
took him home to his own house, and showed him a parcel of fossils, which
he had gathered, he said, on purpose to sell, but had never had time
enough to sell them. Now, however, he set about the task; and having
picked out those which he judged to be the best, he put them in a small
basket, and gave them to Jem to sell, upon condition that he should bring
him half of what he got. Jem, pleased to be employed, was ready to agree
to what the man proposed, provided his mother had no objection. When he
went home to dinner, he told his mother his scheme, and she smiled, and
said he might do as he pleased; for she was not afraid of his being from
home. “You are not an idle boy,” said she; “so there is little danger of
your getting into any mischief.”
Accordingly Jem that evening took his stand, with his little basket, upon
the bank of the river, just at the place where people land from a ferry-
boat, and the walk turns to the wells, and numbers of people perpetually
pass to drink the waters. He chose his place well, and waited nearly all
the evening, offering his fossils with great assiduity to every
passenger; but not one person bought any.
“Hallo!” cried some sailors, who had just rowed a boat to land, “bear a
hand here, will you, my little fellow, and carry these parcels for us
into yonder house?”
Jem ran down immediately for the parcels, and did what he was asked to do
so quickly, and with so much good-will, that the master of the boat took
notice of him, and, when he was going away, stopped to ask him what he
had got in his little basket; and when he saw that they were fossils, he
immediately told Jem to follow him, for that he was going to carry some
shells he had brought from abroad to a lady in the neighbourhood who was
making a grotto. “She will very likely buy your stones into the bargain.
Come along, my lad; we can but try.”
The lady lived but a very little way off, so that they were soon at her
house. She was alone in her parlour, and was sorting a bundle of
feathers of different colours; they lay on a sheet of pasteboard upon a
window seat, and it happened that as the sailor was bustling round the
table to show off his shells, he knocked down the sheet of pasteboard,
and scattered all the feathers. The lady looked very sorry, which Jem
observing, he took the opportunity, whilst she was busy looking over the
sailor’s bag of shells, to gather together all the feathers, and sort
them according to their different colours, as he had seen them sorted
when he first came into the room.
“Where is the little boy you brought with you? I thought I saw him here
“And here I am, ma’am,” cried Jem, creeping from under the table, with
some few remaining feathers which he had picked from the carpet; “I
thought,” added he, pointing to the others, “I had better be doing
something than standing idle, ma’am.” She smiled, and, pleased with his
activity and simplicity, began to ask him several questions; such as who
he was, where he lived, what employment he had, and how much a day he
earned by gathering fossils.
“This is the first day I ever tried,” said Jem; “I never sold any yet,
and if you don’t buy ’em now, ma’am, I’m afraid nobody else will; for
I’ve asked everybody else.”
“Come, then,” said the lady, laughing, “if that is the case, I think I
had better buy them all.” So, emptying all the fossils out of his
basket, she put half a crown into it.
Jem’s eyes sparkled with joy. “Oh, thank you, ma’am,” said he, “I will
be sure and bring you as many more, to-morrow.”
“Yes, but I don’t promise you,” said she, “to give you half a crown, to-
“But, perhaps, though you don’t promise it, you will.”
“No,” said the lady, “do not deceive yourself; I assure you that I will
not. THAT, instead of encouraging you to be industrious, would teach you
to be idle.”
Jem did not quite understand what she meant by this, but answered, “I’m
sure I don’t wish to be idle; what I want is to earn something every day,
if I know how; I’m sure I don’t wish to be idle. If you knew all, you’d
know I did not.”
“How do you mean, IF I KNEW ALL?”
“Why, I mean, if you knew about Lightfoot.”
“Why, mammy’s horse,” added Jem, looking out of the window; “I must make
haste home, and feed him afore it gets dark; he’ll wonder what’s gone
“Let him wonder a few minutes longer,” said the lady, “and tell me the
rest of your story.”
“I’ve no story, ma’am, to tell, but as how mammy says he must go to the
fair Monday fortnight, to be sold, if she can’t get the two guineas for
her rent; and I should be main sorry to part with him, for I love him,
and he loves me; so I’ll work for him, I will, all I can. To be sure, as
mammy says, I have no chance, such a little fellow as I am, of earning
two guineas afore Monday fortnight.”
“But are you willing earnestly to work?” said the lady; “you know there
is a great deal of difference between picking up a few stones, and
working steadily every day, and all day long.”
“But,” said Jem, “I would work every day, and all day long.”
“Then,” said the lady, “I will give you work. Come here, to-morrow
morning, and my gardener will set you to weed the shrubberies, and I will
pay you sixpence a day. Remember, you must be at the gates by six
o’clock.” Jem bowed, thanked her, and went away.
It was late in the evening, and Jem was impatient to get home to feed
Lightfoot; yet he recollected that he had promised the man who had
trusted him to sell the fossils, that he would bring him half of what he
got for them; so he thought that he had better go to him directly; and
away he went, running along by the waterside about a quarter of a mile,
till he came to the man’s house. He was just come home from work, and
was surprised when Jem showed him the half-crown, saying, “Look what I
got for the stones; you are to have half, you know.”
“No,” said the man, when he had heard his story, “I shall not take half
of that; it was given to you. I expected but a shilling at the most, and
the half of that is but sixpence, and that I’ll take. Wife, give the lad
two shillings, and take this half-crown.” So the wife opened an old
glove, and took out two shillings; and the man, as she opened the glove,
put in his fingers, and took out a little silver penny. “There, he shall
have that into the bargain for his honesty–honesty is the best policy–
there’s a lucky penny for you, that I’ve kept ever since I can remember.”
“Don’t you ever go to part with it, do ye hear!” cried the woman.
“Let him do what he will with it, wife,” said the man.
“But,” argued the wife, “another penny would do just as well to buy
gingerbread; and that’s what it will go for.”
“No, that it shall not, I promise you,” said Jem; and so he ran away
home, fed Lightfoot, stroked him, went to bed, jumped up at five o’clock
in the morning, and went singing to work as gay as a lark.
Four days he worked “every day and all day long”; and every evening the
lady, when she came out to walk in her gardens, looked at his work. At
last she said to her gardener, “This little boy works very hard.”
“Never had so good a little boy about the grounds,” said the gardener;
“he’s always at his work, let me come by when I will, and he has got
twice as much done as another would do; yes, twice as much, ma’am; for
look here–he began at this ‘ere rose-bush, and now he’s got to where you
stand, ma’am; and here is the day’s work that t’other boy, and he’s three
years older too, did to-day–I say, measure Jem’s fairly, and it’s twice
as much, I’m sure.”
“Well,” said the lady to her gardener, “show me how much is a fair day’s
work for a boy of his age.”
“Come at six o’clock and go at six? why, about this much, ma’am,” said
the gardener, marking off a piece of the border with his spade.
“Then, little boy,” said the lady, “so much shall be your task every day.
The gardener will mark it off for you; and when you’ve done, the rest of
the day you may do what you please.”
Jem was extremely glad of this; and the next day he had finished his task
by four o’clock; so that he had all the rest of the evening to himself.
He was as fond of play as any little boy could be; and when he was at it
he played with all the eagerness and gaiety imaginable; so as soon as he
had finished his task, fed Lightfoot, and put by the sixpence he had
earned that day, he ran to the playground in the village, where he found
a party of boys playing, and amongst them Lazy Lawrence, who indeed was
not playing, but lounging upon a gate, with his thumb in his mouth. The
rest were playing at cricket. Jem joined them, and was the merriest and
most active amongst them; till, at last, when quite out of breath with
running, he was obliged to give up to rest himself, and sat down upon the
stile, close to the gate on which Lazy Lawrence was swinging.
“And why don’t you play, Lawrence?” said he.
“I’m tired,” said Lawrence.
“Tired of what?”
“I don’t know well what tires me; grandmother says I’m ill, and I must
take something–I don’t know what ails me.”
“Oh, pugh! take a good race–one, two, three, and away–and you’ll find
yourself as well as ever. Come, run–one, two, three, and away.”
“Ah, no, I can’t run, indeed,” said he, hanging back heavily; “you know I
can play all day long if I like it, so I don’t mind play as you do, who
have only one hour for it.”
“So much the worse for you. Come, now, I’m quite fresh again, will you
have one game at ball? do.”
“No, I tell you I can’t; I’m as tired as if I had been working all day
long as hard as a horse.”
“Ten times more,” said Jem, “for I have been working all day long, as
hard as a horse, and yet you see I’m not a bit tired, only a little out
of breath just now.”
“That’s very odd,” said Lawrence, and yawned, for want of some better
answer; then taking out a handful of halfpence,–“See what I got from
father today, because I asked him just at the right time, when he had
drunk a glass or two; then I can get anything I want out of him–see! a
penny, twopence, threepence, fourpence–there’s eightpence in all; would
not you be happy if you had EIGHTPENCE?”
“Why, I don’t know,” said Jem, laughing, “for you don’t seem happy, and
you HAVE EIGHTPENCE.”
“That does not signify, though. I’m sure you only say that because you
envy me. You don’t know what it is to have eightpence. You never had
more than twopence or threepence at a time in all your life.”
Jem smiled. “Oh, as to that,” said he, “you are mistaken, for I have at
this very time more than twopence, threepence, or eightpence either. I
have–let me–see–stones, two shillings; then five days’ work–that’s
five sixpences, that’s two shillings and sixpence; in all, makes four
shillings and sixpence; and my silver penny, is four and sevenpence–four
“You have not!” said Lawrence, roused so as absolutely to stand upright,
“four and sevenpence, have you? Show it me, and then I’ll believe you.”
“Follow me, then,” cried Jem, “and I’ll soon make you believe me; come.”
“Is it far?” said Lawrence, following half-running, half-hobbling, till
he came to the stable, where Jem showed him his treasure. “And how did
you come by it–honestly?”
“Honestly! to be sure I did; I earned it all.”
“Lord bless me, earned it! well, I’ve a great mind to work; but then it’s
such hot weather, besides, grandmother says I’m not strong enough yet for
hard work; and besides, I know how to coax daddy out of money when I want
it, so I need not work. But four and sevenpence; let’s see, what will
you do with it all?”
“That’s a secret,” said Jem, looking great.
“I can guess; I know what I’d do with it if it was mine. First, I’d buy
pocketfuls of gingerbread; then I’d buy ever so many apples and nuts.
Don’t you love nuts? I’d buy nuts enough to last me from this time to
Christmas, and I’d make little Newton crack ’em for me, for that’s the
worst of nuts; there’s the trouble of cracking ’em.”
“Well, you never deserve to have a nut.”
“But you’ll give me some of yours,” said Lawrence, in a fawning tone; for
he thought it easier to coax than to work–“you’ll give me some of your
good things, won’t you?”
“I shall not have any of those good things,” said Jem.
“Then, what will you do with all your money?”
“Oh, I know very well what to do with it; but, as I told you, that’s a
secret, and I sha’n’t tell it anybody. Come now, let’s go back and play-
-their game’s up, I daresay.”
Lawrence went back with him, full of curiosity, and out of humour with
himself and his eightpence. “If I had four and sevenpence,” said he to
himself, “I certainly should be happy!”
The next day, as usual, Jem jumped up before six o’clock and went to his
work, whilst Lazy Lawrence sauntered about without knowing what to do
with himself. In the course of two days he laid out sixpence of his
money in apples and gingerbread; and as long as these lasted, he found
himself well received by his companions; but, at length the third day he
spent his last halfpenny, and when it was gone, unfortunately some nuts
tempted him very much, but he had no money to pay for them; so he ran
home to coax his father, as he called it.
When he got home he heard his father talking very loud, and at first he
thought he was drunk; but when he opened the kitchen door, he saw that he
was not drunk, but angry.
“You lazy dog!” cried he, turning suddenly upon Lawrence, and gave him
such a violent box on the ear as made the light flash from his eyes; “you
lazy dog! See what you’ve done for me–look!–look, look, I say!”
Lawrence looked as soon as he came to the use of his senses, and with
fear, amazement and remorse, beheld at least a dozen bottles burst, and
the fine Worcestershire cider streaming over the floor.
“Now, did not I order you three days ago to carry these bottles to the
cellar, and did not I charge you to wire the corks? answer me, you lazy
rascal; did not I?”
“Yes,” said Lawrence, scratching his head.
“And why was not it done, I ask you?” cried his father, with renewed
anger, as another bottle burst at the moment. “What do you stand there
for, you lazy brat? why don’t you move, I say? No, no,” catching hold of
him, “I believe you can’t move; but I’ll make you.” And he shook him
till Lawrence was so giddy he could not stand. “What had you to think
of? What had you to do all day long that you could not carry my cider,
my Worcestershire cider, to the cellar when I bid you? But go, you’ll
never be good for anything; you are such a lazy rascal–get out of my
sight!” So saying, he pushed him out of the house door, and Lawrence
sneaked off, seeing that this was no time to make his petition for
The next day he saw the nuts again, and wishing for them more than ever,
he went home, in hopes that his father, as he said to himself, would be
in a better humour. But the cider was still fresh in his recollection;
and the moment Lawrence began to whisper the word “halfpenny” in his ear,
his father swore, with a loud oath, “I will not give you a halfpenny, no,
not a farthing, for a month to come. If you want money, go work for it;
I’ve had enough of your laziness–go work!”
At these terrible words Lawrence burst into tears, and, going to the side
of a ditch, sat down and cried for an hour; and when he had cried till he
could cry no more, he exerted himself so far as to empty his pockets, to
see whether there might not happen to be one halfpenny left; and, to his
great joy, in the farthest corner of his pocket one halfpenny was found.
With this he proceeded to the fruit woman’s stall. She was busy weighing
out some plums, so he was obliged to wait; and whilst he was waiting he
heard some people near him talking and laughing very loud.
The fruit woman’s stall was at the gate of an inn yard; and peeping
through the gate in this yard, Lawrence saw a postilion and a stable boy,
about his own size, playing at pitch farthing. He stood by watching them
for a few minutes. “I began but with one halfpenny,” cried the stable
boy, with an oath, “and now I’ve got twopence!” added he, jingling the
halfpence in his waistcoat pocket. Lawrence was moved at the sound, and
said to himself, “If _I_ begin with one halfpenny I may end, like him,
with having twopence; and it is easier to play at pitch farthing than to
So he stepped forward, presenting his halfpenny, offering to toss up with
the stable boy, who, after looking him full in the face, accepted the
proposal, and threw his halfpenny into the air. “Head or tail?” cried
he. “Head,” replied Lawrence, and it came up head. He seized the penny,
surprised at his own success, and would have gone instantly to have laid
it out in nuts; but the stable boy stopped him, and tempted him to throw
again. This time Lawrence lost; he threw again and won; and so he went
on, sometimes losing, but most frequently winning, till half the morning
was lost. At last, however, finding himself the master of three
halfpence, said he would play no more.
The stable boy, grumbling, swore he would have his revenge another time,
and Lawrence went and bought his nuts. “It is a good thing,” said he to
himself, “to play at pitch farthing; the next time I want a halfpenny
I’ll not ask my father for it, nor go to work neither.” Satisfied with
this resolution, he sat down to crack his nuts at his leisure, upon the
horse block in the inn yard. Here, whilst he ate, he overheard the
conversation of the stable boys and postilions. At first their shocking
oaths and loud wrangling frightened and shocked him; for Lawrence, though
lazy, had not yet learned to be a wicked boy. But, by degrees, he was
accustomed to the swearing and quarrelling, and took a delight and
interest in their disputes and battles. As this was an amusement which
he could enjoy without any sort of exertion, he soon grew so fond of it,
that every day he returned to the stable yard, and the horse block became
his constant seat. Here he found some relief from the insupportable
fatigue of doing nothing, and here, hour after hour, with his elbows on
his knees, and his head on his hands, he sat, the spectator of
wickedness. Gaming, cheating and lying soon became familiar to him; and,
to complete his ruin, he formed a sudden and close intimacy with the
stable boy (a very bad boy) with whom he had first begun to game.
The consequences of this intimacy we shall presently see. But it is now
time to inquire what little Jem had been doing all this while.
One day, after Jem had finished his task, the gardener asked him to stay
a little while, to help him to carry some geranium pots into the hall.
Jem, always active and obliging, readily stayed from play, and was
carrying in a heavy flower pot, when his mistress crossed the hall.
“What a terrible litter!” said she, “you are making here–why don’t you
wipe your shoes upon the mat?” Jem turned to look for the mat, but he
saw none. “Oh,” said the lady recollecting herself, “I can’t blame you,
for there is no mat.”
“No, ma’am,” said the gardener, “nor I don’t know when, if ever, the man
will bring home those mats you bespoke, ma’am.”
“I am very sorry to hear that,” said the lady; “I wish we could find
somebody who would do them, if he can’t. I should not care what sort of
mats they were, so that one could wipe one’s feet on them.”
Jem, as he was sweeping away the litter, when he heard these last words,
said to himself, “Perhaps I could make a mat.” And all the way home, as
he trudged along whistling, he was thinking over a scheme for making
mats, which, however bold it may appear, he did not despair of executing,
with patience and industry. Many were the difficulties which his
“prophetic eye” foresaw; but he felt within himself that spirit which
spurs men on to great enterprises, and makes them “trample on
impossibilities.” In the first place, he recollected that he had seen
Lazy Lawrence, whilst he lounged upon the gate, twist a bit of heath into
different shapes; and he thought, that if he could find some way of
plaiting heath firmly together, it would make a very pretty green soft
mat, which would do very well for one to wipe one’s shoes on. About a
mile from his mother’s house, on the common which Jem rode over when he
went to Farmer Truck’s for the giant strawberries, he remembered to have
seen a great quantity of this heath; and, as it was now only six o’clock
in the evening, he knew that he should have time to feed Lightfoot,
stroke him, go to the common, return, and make one trial of his skill
before he went to bed.
Lightfoot carried him swiftly to the common, and there Jem gathered as
much of the heath as he thought he should want. But what toil! what
time! what pains did it cost him, before he could make anything like a
mat! Twenty times he was ready to throw aside the heath, and give up his
project, from impatience of repeated disappointments. But still he
persevered. Nothing TRULY GREAT can be accomplished without toil and
time. Two hours he worked before he went to bed. All his play hours the
next day he spent at his mat; which, in all, made five hours of fruitless
attempts. The sixth, however, repaid him for the labours of the other
five. He conquered his grand difficulty of fastening the heath
substantially together, and at length completely finished a mat, which
far surpassed his most sanguine expectations. He was extremely happy–
sang, danced round it–whistled–looked at it again and again, and could
hardly leave off looking at it when it was time to go to bed. He laid it
by his bedside, that he might see it the moment he awoke in the morning.
And now came the grand pleasure of carrying it to his mistress. She
looked fully as much surprised as he expected, when she saw it, and when
she heard who made it. After having duly admired it, she asked how much
he expected for his mat. “Expect!–Nothing, ma’am,” said Jem; “I meant
to give it you, if you’d have it; I did not mean to sell it. I made it
in my play hours, I was very happy in making it; and I’m very glad, too,
that you like it; and if you please to keep it, ma’am, that’s all.”
“But that’s not all,” said the lady. “Spend your time no more in weeding
in my garden, you can employ yourself much better; you shall have the
reward of your ingenuity as well as of your industry. Make as many more
such mats as you can, and I will take care and dispose of them for you.”
“Thank’e, ma’am,” said Jem, making his best bow, for he thought by the
lady’s looks that she meant to do him a favour, though he repeated to
himself, “Dispose of them, what does that mean?”
The next day he went to work to make more mats, and he soon learned to
make them so well and quickly, that he was surprised at his own success.
In every one he made he found less difficulty, so that, instead of making
two, he could soon make four in a day. In a fortnight he made eighteen.
It was Saturday night when he finished, and he carried, at three
journeys, his eighteen mats to his mistress’ house; piled them all up in
the hall, and stood with his hat off, with a look of proud humility,
beside the pile, waiting for his mistress’ appearance. Presently a
folding-door, at one end of the hall, opened, and he saw his mistress,
with a great many gentlemen and ladies, rising from several tables.
“Oh! there is my little boy and his mats,” cried the lady; and, followed
by all the rest of the company, she came into the hall. Jem modestly
retired whilst they looked at his mats; but in a minute or two his
mistress beckoned to him, and when he came into the middle of the circle,
he saw that his pile of mats had disappeared.
“Well,” said the lady, smiling, “what do you see that makes you look so
“That all my mats are gone,” said Jem; “but you are very welcome.”
“Are we?” said the lady, “well, take up your hat and go home then, for
you see that it is getting late, and you know Lightfoot will wonder
what’s become of you.” Jem turned round to take up his hat, which he had
left on the floor.
But how his countenance changed! the hat was heavy with shillings.
Everyone who had taken a mat had put in two shillings; so that for the
eighteen mats he had got thirty-six shillings. “Thirty-six shillings,”
said the lady; “five and sevenpence I think you told me you had earned
already–how much does that make? I must add, I believe, one other
sixpence to make out your two guineas.”
“Two guineas!” exclaimed Jem, now quite conquering his bashfulness, for
at the moment he forgot where he was, and saw nobody that was by. “Two
guineas!” cried he, clapping his hands together,–“O, Lightfoot! O,
mother!” Then, recollecting himself, he saw his mistress, whom he now
looked up to quite as a friend. “Will YOU thank them all?” said he,
scarcely daring to glance his eyes round upon the company; “will YOU
thank ’em, for you know I don’t know how to thank ’em RIGHTLY.”
Everybody thought, however, that they had been thanked RIGHTLY.
“Now we won’t keep you any longer, only,” said his mistress, “I have one
thing to ask you, that I may be by when you show your treasure to your
“Come, then,” said Jem, “come with me now.”
“Not now,” said the lady, laughing; “but I will come to Ashton to-morrow
evening; perhaps your mother can find me a few strawberries.”
“That she will,” said Jem: “I’ll search the garden myself.”
He now went home, but felt it a great restraint to wait till to-morrow
evening before he told his mother. To console himself he flew to the
stable:–“Lightfoot, you’re not to be sold on Monday, poor fellow!” said
he, patting him, and then could not refrain from counting out his money.
Whilst he was intent upon this, Jem was startled by a noise at the door:
somebody was trying to pull up the latch. It opened, and there came in
Lazy Lawrence, with a boy in a red jacket, who had a cock under his arm.
They started when they got into the middle of the stable, and when they
saw Jem, who had been at first hidden by the horse.
“We–we–we came,” stammered Lazy Lawrence–“I mean, I came to–to–to–”
“To ask you,” continued the stable-boy, in a bold tone, “whether you will
go with us to the cock-fight on Monday? See, I’ve a fine cock here, and
Lawrence told me you were a great friend of his; so I came.”
Lawrence now attempted to say something in praise of the pleasures of
cock-fighting and in recommendation of his new companion. But Jem looked
at the stable-boy with dislike, and a sort of dread. Then turning his
eyes upon the cock with a look of compassion, said, in a low voice, to
Lawrence, “Shall you like to stand by and see its eyes pecked out?”
“I don’t know,” said Lawrence, “as to that; but they say a cockfight’s a
fine sight, and it’s no more cruel in me to go than another; and a great
many go, and I’ve nothing else to do, so I shall go.”
“But I have something else to do,” said Jem, laughing, “so I shall not
“But,” continued Lawrence, “you know Monday is the great Bristol fair,
and one must be merry then, of all the days in the year.”
“One day in the year, sure, there’s no harm in being merry,” said the
“I hope not,” said Jem; “for I know for my part, I am merry every day in
“That’s very odd,” said Lawrence; “but I know for my part, I would not
for all the world miss going to the fair, for at least it will be
something to talk of for half a year after. Come, you’ll go, won’t you?”
“No,” said Jem, still looking as if he did not like to talk before the
“Then what will you do with all your money?”
“I’ll tell you about that another time,” whispered Jem; “and don’t you go
to see that cock’s eyes pecked out; it won’t make you merry, I’m sure.”
“If I had anything else to divert me,” said Lawrence, hesitating and
“Come,” cried the stable boy, seizing his stretching arm, “come along,”
cried he; and, pulling him away from Jem, upon whom he cast a look of
extreme contempt; “leave him alone, he’s not the sort.
“What a fool you are,” said he to Lawrence, the moment he got him out of
the stable; “you might have known he would not go, else we should soon
have trimmed him out of his four and sevenpence. But how came you to
talk of four and sevenpence. I saw in the manger a hat full of silver.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Lawrence.
“Yes, indeed; but why did you stammer so when we first got in? You had
liked to have blown us all up.”
“I was so ashamed,” said Lawrence, hanging down his head.
“Ashamed! but you must not talk of shame now you are in for it, and I
sha’n’t let you off; you owe us half a crown, recollect, and I must be
paid to-night, so see and get the money somehow or other.” After a
considerable pause he added, “I answer for it he’d never miss half a
crown out of all that silver.”
“But to steal,” said Lawrence, drawing back with horror, “I never thought
I should come to that–and from poor Jem, too–the money that he has
worked so hard for, too.”
“But it is not stealing; we don’t mean to steal; only to borrow it; and
if we win, which we certainly shall, at the cock-fight, pay it back
again, and he’ll never know anything about the matter, and what harm will
it do him? Besides, what signifies talking, you can’t go to the cock-
fight, or the fair either, if you don’t; and I tell ye we don’t mean to
steal it; we’ll pay it by Monday night.”
Lawrence made no reply, and they parted without his coming to any
Here let us pause in our story. We are almost afraid to go on. The rest
is very shocking. Our little readers will shudder as they read. But it
is better that they should know the truth, and see what the idle boy came
to at last.
In the dead of the night, Lawrence heard somebody tap at his window. He
knew well who it was, for this was the signal agreed upon between him and
his wicked companion. He trembled at the thoughts of what he was about
to do, and lay quite still, with his head under the bedclothes, till he
heard the second tap. Then he got up, dressed himself, and opened his
window. It was almost even with the ground. His companion said to him,
in a hollow voice, “Are you ready?” He made no answer, but got out of
the window and followed.
When he got to the stable a black cloud was just passing over the moon,
and it was quite dark. “Where are you?” whispered Lawrence, groping
about, “where are you? Speak to me.”
“I am here; give me your hand.” Lawrence stretched out his hand. “Is
that your hand?” said the wicked boy, as Lawrence laid hold of him; “how
cold it feels.”
“Let us go back,” said Lawrence; “it is time yet.”
“It is no time to go back,” replied the other, opening the door; “you’ve
gone too far now to go back,” and he pushed Lawrence into the stable.
“Have you found it? Take care of the horse. Have you done? What are
you about? Make haste, I hear a noise,” said the stable boy, who watched
at the door.
“I am feeling for the half-crown, but I can’t find it.”
“Bring all together.” He brought Jem’s broken flower pot, with all the
money in it, to the door. The black cloud had now passed over the moon,
and the light shone full upon them. “What do we stand here for?” said
the stable boy, snatching the flower-pot out of Lawrence’s trembling
hands, and pulled him away from the door.
“Good God!” cried Lawrence, “you won’t take all. You said you’d only
take half a crown, and pay it back on Monday. You said you’d only take
half a crown!”
“Hold your tongue,” replied the other, walking on, deaf to all
remonstrances–“if ever I am to be hanged, it sha’n’t be for half a
Lawrence’s blood ran cold in his veins, and he felt as if all his hair
stood on end. Not another word passed. His accomplice carried off the
money, and Lawrence crept, with all the horrors of guilt upon him, to his
restless bed. All night he was starting from frightful dreams; or else,
broad awake, he lay listening to every small noise, unable to stir, and
scarcely daring to breathe–tormented by that most dreadful of all kinds
of fear, that fear which is the constant companion of an evil conscience.
He thought the morning would never come; but when it was day, when he
heard the birds sing, and saw everything look cheerful as usual, he felt
still more miserable. It was Sunday morning, and the bell rang for
church. All the children of the village, dressed in their Sunday
clothes, innocent and gay, and little Jem, the best and gayest amongst
them, went flocking by his door to church.
“Well, Lawrence,” said Jem, pulling his coat as he passed and saw
Lawrence leaning against his father’s door, “what makes you look so
“I?” said Lawrence, starting; “why do you say that I look black?”
“Nay, then,” said Jem, “you look white enough now, if that will please
you, for you’re turned as pale as death.”
“Pale?” replied Lawrence, not knowing what he said, and turned abruptly
away, for he dared not stand another look of Jem’s; conscious that guilt
was written in his face, he shunned every eye. He would now have given
the world to have thrown off the load of guilt which lay upon his mind.
He longed to follow Jem, to fall upon his knees and confess all.
Dreading the moment when Jem should discover his loss, Lawrence dared not
stay at home, and not knowing what to do, or where to go, he mechanically
went to his old haunt at the stable yard, and lurked thereabouts all day
with his accomplice, who tried in vain to quiet his fears and raise his
spirits by talking of the next day’s cock-fight. It was agreed that as
soon as the dusk of the evening came on, they should go together into a
certain lonely field, and there divide their booty.
In the meantime, Jem, when he returned from church, was very full of
business, preparing for the reception of his mistress, of whose intended
visit he had informed his mother; and whilst she was arranging the
kitchen and their little parlour, he ran to search the strawberry beds.
“Why, my Jem, how merry you are to-day!” said his mother, when he came in
with the strawberries, and was jumping about the room playfully. “Now,
keep those spirits of yours, Jem, till you want ’em, and don’t let it
come upon you all at once. Have it in mind that to-morrow’s fair day,
and Lightfoot must go. I bid Farmer Truck call for him to-night. He
said he’d take him along with his own, and he’ll be here just now–and
then I know how it will be with you, Jem!”
“So do I!” cried Jem, swallowing his secret with great difficulty, and
then tumbling head over heels four times running.
A carriage passed the window, and stopped at the door. Jem ran out; it
was his mistress. She came in smiling, and soon made the old woman
smile, too, by praising the neatness of everything in the house.
We shall pass over, however important as they were deemed at the time,
the praises of the strawberries, and of “my grandmother’s china plate.”
Another knock was heard at the door. “Run, Jem,” said his mother. “I
hope it’s our milk-woman with cream for the lady.” No; it was Farmer
Truck come for Lightfoot. The old woman’s countenance fell. “Fetch him
out, dear,” said she, turning to her son; but Jem was gone; he flew out
to the stable the moment he saw the flap of Farmer Truck’s great-coat.
“Sit ye down, farmer,” said the old woman, after they had waited about
five minutes in expectation of Jem’s return. “You’d best sit down, if
the lady will give you leave; for he’ll not hurry himself back again. My
boy’s a fool, madam, about that there horse.” Trying to laugh, she
added, “I knew how Lightfoot and he would be loath enough to part. He
won’t bring him out till the last minute; so do sit ye down, neighbour.”
The farmer had scarcely sat down when Jem, with a pale, wild countenance
came back. “What’s the matter?” said his mistress. “God bless the boy!”
said his mother, looking at him quite frightened, whilst he tried to
speak, but could not.
She went up to him, and then leaning his head against her, he cried,
“It’s gone!–it’s all gone!” and, bursting into tears, he sobbed as if
his little heart would break.
“What’s gone, love?” said his mother.
“My two guineas–Lightfoot’s two guineas. I went to fetch ’em to give
you, mammy; but the broken flower-pot that I put them in, and all’s
gone!–quite gone!” repeated he, checking his sobs. “I saw them safe
last night, and was showing ’em to Lightfoot; and I was so glad to think
I had earned them all myself; and I thought how surprised you’d look, and
how glad you’d be, and how you’d kiss me, and all!”
His mother listened to him with the greatest surprise, whilst his
mistress stood in silence, looking first at the old woman, and then at
Jem with a penetrating eye, as if she suspected the truth of his story,
and was afraid of becoming the dupe of her own compassion.
“This is a very strange thing!” said she, gravely. “How came you to
leave all your money in a broken flower-pot in the stable? How came you
not to give it to your mother to take care of?”
“Why, don’t you remember?” said Jem, looking up, in the midst of his
tears–“why, don’t you remember you, your own self, bid me not tell her
about it till you were by?”
“And did you not tell her?”
“Nay, ask mammy,” said Jem, a little offended; and when afterwards the
lady went on questioning him in a severe manner, as if she did not
believe him, he at last made no answer.
“Oh, Jem! Jem! why don’t you speak to the lady?” said his mother.
“I have spoke, and spoke the truth,” said Jem, proudly; “and she did not
Still the lady, who had lived too long in the world to be without
suspicion, maintained a cold manner, and determined to wait the event
without interfering, saying only, that she hoped the money would be
found, and advised Jem to have done crying.
“I have done,” said Jem; “I shall cry no more.” And as he had the
greatest command over himself, he actually did not shed another tear, not
even when the farmer got up to go, saying, he could wait no longer.
Jem silently went to bring out Lightfoot. The lady now took her seat,
where she could see all that passed at the open parlour-window. The old
woman stood at the door, and several idle people of the village, who had
gathered round the lady’s carriage examining it, turned about to listen.
In a minute or two Jem appeared, with a steady countenance, leading
Lightfoot and, when he came up, without saying a word, put the bridle
into Farmer Truck’s hand.
“He HAS BEEN a good horse,” said the farmer.
“He IS a good horse!” cried Jem, and threw his arm over Lightfoot’s neck,
hiding his own face as he leaned upon him.
At this instant a party of milk-women went by; and one of them, having
set down her pail, came behind Jem, and gave him a pretty smart blow upon
the back. He looked up. “And don’t you know me?” said she.
“I forget,” said Jem; “I think I have seen your face before, but I
“Do you so? and you’ll tell me just now,” said she, half opening her
hand, “that you forget who gave you this, and who charged you not to part
with it, too.” Here she quite opened her large hand, and on the palm of
it appeared Jem’s silver penny.
“Where?” exclaimed Jem, seizing it, “oh, where did you find it? and have
you–oh, tell me, have you got the rest of my money?”
“I know nothing of your money–I don’t know what you would be at,” said
“But where–pray tell me where–did you find this?”
“With them that you gave it to, I suppose,” said the milk-woman, turning
away suddenly to take up her milk-pail. But now Jem’s mistress called to
her through the window, begging her to stop, and joining in his
entreaties to know how she came by the silver penny.
“Why, madam,” said she, taking up the corner of her apron, “I came by it
in an odd way, too. You must know my Betty is sick, so I came with the
milk myself, though it’s not what I’m used to; for my Betty–you know my
Betty?” said she, turning round to the old woman, “my Betty serves you,
and she’s a tight and stirring lassy, ma’am, I can assure–”
“Yes, I don’t doubt it,” said the lady, impatiently; “but about the
“Why, that’s true; as I was coming along all alone, for the rest came
round, and I came a short cut across yon field–no, you can’t see it,
madam, where you stand–but if you were here–”
“I see it–I know it,” said Jem, out of breath with anxiety.
“Well–well–I rested my pail upon the stile, and sets me down awhile,
and there comes out of the hedge–I don’t know well how, for they
startled me so I’d liked to have thrown down my milk–two boys, one about
the size of he,” said she pointing to Jem, “and one a matter taller, but
ill-looking like; so I did not think to stir to make way for them, and
they were like in a desperate hurry: so, without waiting for the stile,
one of ’em pulled at the gate, and when it would not open (for it was
tied with a pretty stout cord) one of ’em whips out with his knife and
cuts it– Now, have you a knife about you, sir?” continued the milk
woman to the farmer. He gave her his knife. “Here, now, ma’am, just
sticking, as it were here, between the blade and the haft, was the silver
penny. The lad took no notice; but when he opened it, out it falls.
Still he takes no heed, but cuts the cord, as I said before, and through
the gate they went, and out of sight in half a minute. I picks up the
penny, for my heart misgave me that it was the very one husband had had a
long time, and had given against my voice to he,” pointing to Jem; “and I
charged him not to part with it; and, ma’am, when I looked I knew it by
the mark, so I thought I would show it to HE,” again pointing to Jem,
“and let him give it back to those it belongs to.”
“It belongs to me,” said Jem, “I never gave it to anybody–but–”
“But,” cried the farmer, “those boys have robbed him; it is they who have
all his money.”
“Oh, which way did they go?” cried Jem, “I’ll run after them.”
“No, no,” said the lady, calling to her servant; and she desired him to
take his horse and ride after them. “Ay,” added Farmer Truck, “do you
take the road, and I’ll take the field way, and I’ll be bound we’ll have
Whilst they were gone in pursuit of the thieves, the lady, who was now
thoroughly convinced of Jem’s truth, desired her coachman would produce
what she had ordered him to bring with him that evening. Out of the boot
of the carriage the coachman immediately produced a new saddle and
How Jem’s eyes sparkled when the saddle was thrown upon Lightfoot’s back!
“Put it on your horse yourself, Jem,” said the lady; “it is yours.”
Confused reports of Lightfoot’s splendid accoutrements, of the pursuit of
thieves, and of the fine and generous lady who was standing at Dame
Preston’s window, quickly spread through the village, and drew everybody
from their houses. They crowded round Jem to hear the story. The
children especially, who were fond of him, expressed the strongest
indignation against the thieves. Every eye was on the stretch; and now
some, who had run down the lane, came back shouting, “Here they are!
they’ve got the thieves!”
The footman on horseback carried one boy before him; and the farmer,
striding along, dragged another. The latter had on a red jacket, which
little Jem immediately recollected, and scarcely dared lift his eyes to
look at the boy on horseback. “Good God!” said he to himself, “it must
be–yet surely it can’t be Lawrence!” The footman rode on as fast as the
people would let him. The boy’s hat was slouched, and his head hung
down, so that nobody could see his face.
At this instant there was a disturbance in the crowd. A man who was half
drunk pushed his way forwards, swearing that nobody should stop him; that
he had a right to see–and he WOULD see. And so he did; for, forcing
through all resistance, he staggered up to the footman just as he was
lifting down the boy he had carried before him. “I WILL–I tell you I
WILL see the thief!” cried the drunken man, pushing up the boy’s hat. It
was his own son. “Lawrence!” exclaimed the wretched father. The shock
sobered him at once, and he hid his face in his hands.
There was an awful silence. Lawrence fell on his knees, and in a voice
that could scarcely be heard made a full confession of all the
circumstances of his guilt.
“Such a young creature so wicked!” the bystanders exclaimed; “what could
put such wickedness in your head?”
“Bad company,” said Lawrence.
“And how came you–what brought you into bad company?”
“I don’t know, except it was idleness.”
While this was saying the farmer was emptying Lazy Lawrence’s pockets;
and when the money appeared, all his former companions in the village
looked at each other with astonishment and terror. Their parents grasped
their little hands closer, and cried, “Thank God! he is not my son. How
often when he was little we used, as he lounged about, to tell him that
idleness was the root of all evil.”
As for the hardened wretch, his accomplice, everyone was impatient to
have him sent to gaol. He put on a bold, insolent countenance, till he
heard Lawrence’s confession; till the money was found upon him; and he
heard the milk-woman declare that she would swear to the silver penny
which he had dropped. Then he turned pale, and betrayed the strongest
signs of fear.
“We must take him before the justice,” said the farmer, “and he’ll be
lodged in Bristol gaol.”
“Oh!” said Jem, springing forwards when Lawrence’s hands were going to be
tied, “let him go–won’t you?–can’t you let him go?”
“Yes, madam, for mercy’s sake,” said Jem’s mother to the lady, “think
what a disgrace to his family to be sent to gaol.”
His father stood by wringing his hands in an agony of despair. “It’s all
my fault,” cried he; “I brought him up in idleness.”
“But he’ll never be idle any more,” said Jem; “won’t you speak for him,
“Don’t ask the lady to speak for him,” said the farmer; “it’s better he
should go to Bridewell now, than to the gallows by-and-by.”
Nothing more was said; for everybody felt the truth of the farmer’s
Lawrence was eventually sent to Bridewell for a month, and the stable-boy
was sent for trial, convicted, and transported to Botany Bay.
During Lawrence’s confinement, Jem often visited him, and carried him
such little presents as he could afford to give; and Jem could afford to
be GENEROUS, because he was INDUSTRIOUS. Lawrence’s heart was touched by
his kindness, and his example struck him so forcibly that, when his
confinement was ended, he resolved to set immediately to work; and, to
the astonishment of all who knew him, soon became remarkable for
industry. He was found early and late at his work, established a new
character, and for ever lost the name of “Lazy Lawrence.”
|In the preface to her book Edgeworth makes the following comments about her short story, “Lazy Lawrence.”
It is not easy to give REWARDS to children which shall not indirectly do
them harm by fostering some hurtful taste or passion. In the story of
“Lazy Lawrence,” where the object was to excite a spirit of industry,
care has been taken to proportion the reward to the exertion, and to
demonstrate that people feel cheerful and happy whilst they are employed.
The reward of our industrious boy, though it be money, is only money
considered as the means of gratifying a benevolent wish. In a commercial
nation it is especially necessary to separate, as much as possible, the
spirit of industry and avarice; and to beware lest we introduce Vice
under the form of Virtue.
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Include in your essay an analogy. Identify the analogy as a bonus item by placing the following after the example: [bonus item].
Bonus points: 4
To submit this bonus item, place it in the same document as the essay assignment. To receive credit, your analysis must be correct. If your essay is late, you will not receive credit for the bonus item.
Bonus points: 3
|To receive credit, you must complete the entire exercise correctly.
1. How do comparison and analogy differ?
2. What is meant by a faulty or illicit comparison?
3. Write an analogy.
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