How a Farthing Made a Fortune; or "Honesty is the best policy" by Bowen, C. E. (Charlotte Elizabeth)

[Illustration: cover art]

HOW A FARTHING MADE A FORTUNE

[Illustration: "DICK HAD TO BE BUSY." _p_. 55.]

HOW A FARTHING MADE A FORTUNE

OR

"HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY."

BY MRS. C. E. BOWEN

_Authoress of "Jack the Conqueror," "How Paul's Penny became a Pound," "How Peter's Pound became a Penny," "The Brook's Story," etc., etc._

_THIRD EDITION._

LONDON S. W. PARTRIDGE & CO. 9 PATERNOSTER ROW.

Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ltd. Printers, London and Aylesbury.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. DICK AND THE APPLES

CHAPTER II. DICK'S MISTAKE

CHAPTER III. A NEW HOME

CHAPTER IV. LIFE AT DENHAM COURT

CHAPTER V. THE VISITOR AT THE LODGE

CHAPTER VI. SIR JOHN'S PROPOSAL

CHAPTER VII. RETURNING GOOD FOR EVIL

Illustrations

"DICK HAD TO BE BUSY." _p_. 55 "I WANT TO SPEAK A WORD TO YOU, MY MAN." "THERE, MY LAD, HOLD IT FIRMLY; THE HORSE IS QUIET ENOUGH." SUSAN AND DICK IN THE RAILWAY-CARRIAGE. THE MEETING OF MR WALTERS AND DICK. "HE RAISED HIS LANTERN AND LOOKED BEHIND A TIER OF SHELVES."

HOW A FARTHING MADE A FORTUNE; OR, "HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY."

CHAPTER I.

DICK AND THE APPLES.

FEW children, if any, who read this tale will probably be able to form any idea of such a wretched home as that in which lived little Dick Nason, the ragman's son. There are houses and rooms in some of the back streets in London where men, women, and children herd almost like wild beasts--haunts of iniquity and misery, and where the name of God is never heard except in the utterance of terrible oaths or execrations. Such was Roan's Court, a place which gave the police continual trouble, and many a hard blow in the execution of their duty. The houses were let out in rooms, of which the upper ones were the most healthy, as possessing a little more light and air than the others; but the cellar floors were almost destitute of both these common luxuries of life, being sunk considerably below the level of the court, and the windows, consisting of four small panes of glass, begrimed with dirt, or if broken, as was generally the case, stuffed up with dirty rags or paper.

It was in one of these cellar rooms that Dick Nason had been born, and in which he lived till he was twelve years old. _How_ he had lived, _how_ he had been fed, and _how_ clothed, it would be difficult to imagine. His mother had been a tidy sort of woman in her younger days, gaining her living as a servant in the family of a small tradesman. But she married a man who was not of sober habits, and who in consequence lost all steady employment, and sank lower and lower till he was reduced to the position of a ragman, going about to collect clothes, bones, rabbit-skins, and such odds and ends as he could scrape together from the servants. The trade was not an unlucrative one on the whole, but Nason spent so much in drink, and his wife having fallen into the same bad habit, kept so little of what she could contrive to get from her husband for household purposes, that they seldom sat down to a regular meal, but scrambled on in a wretched way, becoming every year more degraded and more confirmed in their habits of intemperance.

Such was the home in which little Dick was reared. Fortunately he was the only child. His father took little notice of him. His mother was not without affection for him, but it was constantly deadened by the almost stupefied state in which she lived. The child seldom knew real hunger, for there was generally something to be found in the three-cornered cupboard to which he had free access, nor did he often get the hard words and blows that are so apt to fall to the lot of the unfortunate children of drinking parents. Neither Nason nor his wife were ranked amongst the more brawling and disorderly inhabitants of Roan's Court; though drink stupefied and rendered them helpless and good-for-nothing often for days together, especially after Nason had had a good haul into his big clothes-bag, and had turned its contents into money. But as for the dirt, untidiness, and general discomfort of their abode, they might have won the prize in this respect had one been offered for the most wretched room.

Dick was a queer little figure to look at, though he had the brightest face possible. He used to be clothed entirely out of his father's rag-bag. Nason had three of these bags, which hung up on three nails in their cellar room. One was blue, made of strong material, for the reception of old garments; the second, of stout canvas, was for rabbit-skins; and the third for bones. Out of the blue bag used to come forth jackets, which were by no means worn out, as well as jackets well patched and darned. The latter always fell to Dick's share, as the better ones were more valuable to turn into cash. As to the fit, that was considered to be utterly unimportant. If only they were large enough for Dick to squeeze into them, or small enough for him to be able to walk about in them, that was deemed sufficient; so the little fellow would at one time be seen to be almost bursting through his things from their tightness, and at another he looked like a walking clothes-peg with his garments hanging loosely upon him. But it was all the same to Dick, whether they were tight or loose, and his bright eyes and curly head were what people looked at most after all. Dick's life for the first few years was a very free and easy one. He made dirt pies beautifully as soon as he was able to walk, being instructed in that art by some children a little older than himself who lived next door. Then came the ball-playing age--for even the poorest youngsters contrive to get balls somehow or other--and Dick had his to roll about long before he knew how to play with it. A little later on his amusement was to stroll about the streets, peep in at the shop windows, look longingly at the tempting piles of oranges and lollipops on the stalls at the corner of the street, and occasionally, but very rarely, produce a halfpenny from his pocket with which to purchase a scrap of the said lollipops, or one of the smallest and most sour of the oranges.

But the greatest delight of Dick's life was to go to Covent Garden Market to look at the flowers, his love for which seemed born with him in a remarkable degree. He was in a perfect ecstasy of delight the first time he went there in company with some other children, who like himself had nothing to do but to stroll about the streets. What they looked at with indifference, Dick gazed upon with rapture, and from that day he constantly found his way to the same spot, which was at no great distance from Roan's Court. He was there so often that his appearance became familiar to the stall-holders, and they sometimes employed him in running errands or doing little jobs for them, rewarding him with an apple or orange, or, if it were towards the evening, perhaps a bunch of flowers that had begun to fade. Nothing ever pleased him so much as to have them to take home; and then he tenderly put them in a cracked mug on the window seat, where he could see them as soon as he awoke in the morning. In after years he used to say that his first idea of God was taken from those flowers; that their beauty carried off his mind in wonder as to the greatness of the Power that made them. The strange contrast between them in all their loveliness and the dingy dirty room he lived in, had doubtless much to do with the effect they produced on his mind.

Dick knew little about religion. Once or twice he had peeped into a church when service was going on, but had not cared to stay long; not at all understanding what he heard, and feeling rather alarmed at the man in the black gown whom he saw sitting near the door to keep order.

But though Dick was a stranger to both church and Sunday-school, an instructor was raised up for him in a quarter no one would have expected. Not far from Covent Garden, in a single room, lived an old man named John Walters, who had a small pension from a gentleman whose servant he had once been, and who increased his means by doing a variety of jobs about the market, where he was quite an institution. This old man loved his God and loved his Bible. He lived quite alone. His wife had been dead some years, and the only child he ever had, a boy, died of measles when he was about twelve years of age.

Perhaps it was the remembrance of this boy made him notice little Dick as he lingered day after day about the market; but he might never have spoken to him had it not been for an incident which we will relate.

One day as a woman from the country was beginning to put up her fruit and vegetables, she tripped and upset her basket of apples, which rolled away in every direction. Dick was standing near and helped to pick them up. The woman was anxious to collect them all, for they were a valuable sort of apple which sold for a good price for dessert, and every one was precious. Several rolled away to a distance and lodged under a heap of empty hampers. Dick ran amongst the hampers and picked them up; as he did so he slipped three of them into the capacious pockets of the very loose clothes he had on, which had lately been produced from the blue bag and would have fitted a boy nearly twice his size. There was an Eye above that saw him commit this theft, that Almighty Eye which never sleeps; but there was also a human one upon the little boy at the moment, and it was that of old John Walters. He was standing very near, but was concealed by some tall shrubs. He saw Dick turn round to look if any one could see him before he put the apples in his pocket, and this made him watch what he was about; and he also saw him go up to the woman with several apples in his hands, which he gave her. She warmly thanked him, and returned him one as a present for the trouble he had taken. It was getting late in the afternoon, and Walters was soon going home. He felt unhappy about Dick, who reminded him of his own boy. He thought he looked like a neglected lad who had no one to teach him how wrong it is to steal. He did not like to bring him into disgrace and trouble in the market by accusing him of taking the apples, neither did he feel it would be right in him to see a child steal and take no notice. "For," thought he, "if he goes on from one thing to another he may come to be a housebreaker in course of time; but if stopped now, a boy with such a face as that may become an honest, good man." Then after a few minutes' thought he said to himself, "'Tis one of Christ's little ones, and so for the Master's sake I'll have a try at him." Meanwhile Dick was devouring the apple the woman had given him, with the not unpleasant recollection that the pleasure to his palate would be repeated three times over, since he had three more in his pocket. I am afraid the said pleasure was in no way diminished by the consciousness that they were stolen. I do not mean to say that he was a thief habitually, for he was not. Some boys make thieving a trade and exult in it. Dick had sometimes purloined what was not his own, in the same manner that he had done the apples. He did not look out for opportunities, but if one such as this came in his way he did not try to resist the temptation.

He was rather startled when he felt some one lay a hand firmly on his shoulder. It was the hand of John Walters, who said to him--

"I want to speak a word to you, my man. Come home with me and I'll give you a cup of tea. I'm going to have mine directly." Dick looked up into his face. It was a very kindly one, though rough and furrowed with years; He did not feel afraid of it; so he went off with Walters, for the cup of tea sounded tempting. It was not often such a chance fell in his way. He walked by the old man's side and answered all his questions as to his name, and where he lived, and what his father did, etc., and by the time Walters knew all about him, they had arrived at the room which he rented in a small back street of some people who kept a little shop.

It was but a humble abode, but it seemed a palace to Dick compared with his own. In the first place, it was quite clean, for the woman of whom Walters rented it was careful to keep it well swept, and he himself did all the tidying and dusting part. Then the furniture was better than what Dick was accustomed to see in any of the rooms in Roan's Court. There was a little round table in the middle of the room, and another at the side with two or three large books on it.

[Illustration: "I WANT TO SPEAK A WORD TO YOU, MY MAN."]

And there was a cupboard in one corner and a narrow bedstead in another, and over the bedstead was laid a large tiger-skin which Walters' master had given him many years before, and which served as an ornament by day and a warm covering for cold nights. Also there was a shelf over the side table with a few books on it. Walters was a good scholar, and had always been fond of reading, but of late years he had cared for few books except his Bible and Prayer-book, which gave evidence of being often used.

Walters told Dick to sit down, and he gave him a book with some pictures of animals in it to look at whilst he made tea; but the boy could not help watching Walters and his doings, which had greater attractions than his book, on the whole. First he put a match to the fire, which was laid ready for lighting. Then he went out with his kettle and fetched some water. Next he unlocked the cupboard, and brought out a tea-pot and two blue and white cups and saucers, and a half-loaf of bread and some butter. He set them on the table very tidily, and then going out again, he went into the little shop on the other side of the passage and bought two or three slices of bacon of his landlady, who sold provisions. These he fried in a little pan that was hung up by the fireside, and when the water was poured into the tea-pot, and the frizzling, delicious-smelling bacon was lifted off the fire and put on a dish on the table, Dick's mouth watered so that he could scarcely wait to be told to begin and eat. "Now then, Dick, come along," said Walters, and Dick needed no second bidding. He pulled his chair in an instant close to the table, and taking his seat, looked ready for action. But old Walters had something else to do before he would begin. He told Dick he was going to say grace, and bade him stand, which he did, and looked rather wonderingly at the old man as he took his little black cap off his head, and raising his hands, asked God to bless the food His goodness had given them. The boy had never seen this done before, and it puzzled him; but the next moment he forgot all about it in the pleasure of satisfying his hunger with the bacon and bread, of which Walters cut him a large slice. His kind-hearted host ate very little himself; but he enjoyed watching Dick's satisfaction, and perhaps wished he had not to do so disagreeable a thing as to tell his young guest that he had seen him stealing.

When tea was over, the methodical old gentleman washed up the cups and saucers and plates, and put everything away in the cupboard. Then he said--

"Now, Dick, I have something to say to you--something you won't like half as much as eating the bacon. You have some apples in your pockets, which you stole from the woman when she dropped them and they rolled under the hamper. Dick, it is a very shocking thing to be a thief, and yet you _are_ one!"

Poor Dick's blue eyes grew enormous, and his cheeks became scarlet. He knew too well that when thieves were detected their fate was to be carried off to prison. He began to suspect he had been entrapped, and that Walters was a policeman in disguise; yet it seemed strange if he were going to be punished that he should begin by giving him such a good tea. He had no time to collect his ideas, for Walters was waiting for him to speak; he could only fly to the resource of trying to help himself by telling a falsehood, so he said that the woman had given them to him.

"No, Dick, that is untrue; she gave you one only, which you ate."

More and more alarmed at finding how thoroughly acquainted Walters was with the late transaction, Dick began to cry and begged him to let him off. The kind-hearted old man drew the boy to his side, and told him he was not going to punish him or tell anybody about his theft; and when his tears were completely dried, he said--

"But there is One who does know it, my boy, and who will one day punish you for stealing and telling stories if you go on thus, and if you do not feel sorry for this and other naughty deeds you have done."

And then he talked of things very new to little Dick. He spoke of sin and of hell, and of Jesus Christ, and of repentance and heaven, in such simple words as came naturally to the old man, who was simple as a child himself, and yet was wiser and more learned in these precious truths than many a great scholar. He talked till the blue eyes brimmed over with tears again, but this time not with terror lest he was going to be sent to prison, but with sorrow for having done so wrongly. For Dick had a very tender heart, and one that was quite ready to receive all that was said to him. He brought the three apples out of his pockets and asked Walters to take them away from him.

"But they are not mine; I can't take them," he said.

"Then I will throw them away," said Dick.

"That will not be right," said Walters, "for they are not yours to throw away; they are the woman's."

Dick looked bewildered; he did not know what to do with them.

"I think you ought to give them back to their owner," said Walters. "I know her, and she is very kind and will forgive you directly, I am sure. If you are really sorry, you will be glad to take them back to her. Suppose you leave them here till to-morrow, and then come, and I will go with you to her stall." Dick promised, and then old Walters kneeled down with the little boy by his side, and he prayed--

"O dear Lord, forgive this young child for what he has done wrong, and help him not to steal and tell stories any more, for Thy dear Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."

Then Dick ran home, thinking all the way of what Walters had been talking about.

The next morning when he woke he saw his little mug of flowers standing on the window-sill, and the old thought came into his mind about God making such beautiful things, and he felt very sorry that he had offended God the day before, and ventured to say a little prayer to Him himself, the very first that had passed his lips--

"O God, who made the flowers, please make me a good boy. I don't mean to steal apples any more, or tell stories."

A little later on, Dick learnt to ask for God's _help_ to keep him from stealing and lying and doing wrong things.

And old Walters had his prayer that morning about Dick--

"O God, I am old and not able to do much for Thee, but help me to teach the little boy Thy ways. Amen."

He was very glad when Dick came running in, for he was half afraid he might shirk the business of taking the apples back to the woman. It showed that he was really sorry, and willing to punish himself by doing a disagreeable thing; for it was of course very disagreeable to go and own that he had stolen the apples. Let all children who read this little tale remember, that when we do any wrong thing, it is right that we should suffer for it. It is not enough merely to tell God we are sorry and to ask His forgiveness; we must prove to God and to ourselves that we really _are_ grieved for our sin by humbling ourselves to ask pardon of those to whom we have done wrong, and by trying to repair the wrong. If we shrink from this when it is in our power to do it, we may be pretty sure that our penitence is not of the kind to lead us to hope that our fault will be forgiven by God; and if He does not forgive our fault, then it will rise up before us in that day when all, both small and great, must appear before the judgment-seat of God.

The woman, Mrs. Needham by name, was greatly surprised when Walters came to her stall as she was laying it out, and told her that Dick wished to return her three apples he had been tempted to put into his pockets the day before. Poor Dick scarcely said a word himself, he felt so frightened lest Mrs. Needham should be very angry; but she only spoke kindly to him, and said she hoped he would never do such a thing again. Indeed, she was just going to give him back one of the apples; but Walters was wiser, and shook his head at her and led Dick away. He knew it would be bad for the boy to be rewarded for taking back the stolen fruit. That afternoon when Mrs. Needham and Walters happened to be together for a few minutes, she talked to him about Dick, and he told her how he had tried to show the boy the sin of stealing.

"After all, though," said the soft-hearted woman, who was more kind than wise, "it was no such great thing he did. An apple or two he just slipped into his pocket when he had the chance, that was all."

But Walters turned to her, and laying his hand on her arm, said almost solemnly--

"And what turned Adam and Eve out of Paradise and brought sin upon millions and millions of us, Mrs. Needham? Why, the taking of an apple, and '_that was all!_'"

"Well, Walters, you've your own way of talking about these things, and you understand them better than I do, because you're so Bible-read."

Mrs. Needham was prevented saying more, because a customer just then came up to purchase some of the very apples in question.

CHAPTER II.

DICK'S MISTAKE.

FROM that day Dick had a friend in old Walters--a very humble one, but of priceless worth to the neglected child. He encouraged him to come often to his room to see him, and finding he could not read, he commenced to try to teach him. He bought a spelling-book, and began what was in truth a most difficult and arduous task to one of his age. But Dick was quick, and Walters persevering, and in course of time the letters were mastered, and then came words of one syllable. After that progress was rapid. A copy-book next appeared on the scene, and the constant inky state of Dick's fingers bore grimy testimony to the industry of both master and pupil. It was a proud day for them both when the boy could write his name quite legibly and neatly in the little Prayer-book which Walters had promised should be his whenever he could do so.

But it was not only the art of reading and writing that Dick was acquiring from his newly-found friend. Lessons of far higher value were being constantly given to him by Walters, whose heart was full of love for his Saviour, and who longed to bring this little lamb into His fold, and secure him against all the temptations that, with such parents and in such a neighbourhood as Roan's Court, he would be subjected to as he grew older. Fortunately for Dick, his father's and mother's carelessness about him turned to good account by enabling him to be a great deal with Walters. On Sundays he went often with him to church, instead of as formerly playing all day in the court or back streets with other idle, uncared-for children. This was a real pleasure to him, for the music possessed as great a fascination for him as flowers.

For some time things went on thus. Dick was getting older and taller, and Walters thought it was time for him to have some regular employment. He was so interested in the lad that he took a walk to Roan's Court one day to speak to his parents about him; but it was unfortunately an evening when they were neither of them quite in a state to be talked to on the subject. He left them in disgust, and with feelings of deep pity for their child. He did not know how to help him, for he lived his own lonely life, knowing scarcely any one; certainly no one who could be of use to Dick. He consulted his landlady, but she could give no advice, and only remarked that "boys were troublesome creatures, and of no use whilst young." The poor woman had two of her own, for whom she had difficulty in providing, so she spoke feelingly. But though Walters was unable to serve the lad in this respect, he had been unconsciously paving the way for a bright future for him by teaching him honesty and the fear of God.

One morning as Dick was going down the Strand with another boy, they stopped to look in at a shop window just as a gentleman drew up his horse at the door, and looked round for some one to come and hold it whilst he entered the shop. Dick ran forward and offered himself. The gentleman gave one look at his pleasant face and put the bridle into his hand, saying, "There, my lad, hold it firmly; the horse is quiet enough."

He was some time in the shop, which was a bookseller's, and he was looking over books. Once or twice he came to the door to see that all was right with his horse, and finding that Dick was holding him carefully, he gave him a nod and returned into the shop. Dick thought his face was a very kind one. When he had finished his business and came out to remount his horse, he put his hand into his pocket and took out some coppers wrapped in paper, and giving them to Dick, said--

"There, my lad, take these. I don't know how many pence you will find inside the paper, but the more there are the better for you."

He was just going to ride off, when the shopman came to the door and asked him some question, to which he replied in a loud voice--

"Let them be sent to No.-- Grosvenor Square."

Dick eagerly opened the paper; there were four pennies inside--and he stared with amazement, there was also a small, very bright yellow coin!

He had only once or twice seen a sovereign in his life, and never had had one in his hand. His companion, a boy named Larkins who lived near Roan's Court, uttered an exclamation. "Why, Dick, he's given you a bit of yellow money; you lucky fellow!" Dick gave quite a shout of joy.

[Illustration: "THERE, MY LAD, HOLD IT FIRMLY; THE HORSE IS QUIET ENOUGH."]

He felt almost giddy, and as if a large fortune had fallen into his hands.

"I tell you what, Dick," said Larkins, who secretly hoped he might come in for a share of the money, "don't you be looking at it like that here in the street, or people will think you've no business with it. Yellow money doesn't often come to the like of us; and, I say, don't you go telling your father or mother of your luck, or they'll take it from you and go and spend it in drink."

Dick did not reply; he was wrapping up the coppers and the yellow bit as carefully in the paper as when they were given him, and he put the little parcel in his jacket pocket.

"I say, Dick," continued Larkins, "what are you going to do with it? How shall you spend it? Won't you go and have a good feed at the cook-shop to begin with?"

Dick heard, and a savoury thought about hot meat and potatoes crossed his mind; but he put it away again, for more important ideas were floating there. His countenance was grave and thoughtful. "I don't think," said he, "that the gentleman _meant_ to give me yellow money. He said there were pence inside the paper. I'm quite sure he did not know there was any gold there."

"Why, then, all the better for you that he made a mistake," said Larkins. "What a lucky thing that he did not look to see what there was inside the paper before he gave it you!"

Time was, before he knew old Walters, that Dick would have thought so too, but now he could not feel any pleasure in taking possession of what it was not intended he should have.

"I should like to give it back to the gentleman," he said. "It would be like stealing, I think, if I kept it."

"Well, you _would_ be a silly chap to do that," exclaimed Larkins--"but one good thing is, you can't give it back; you don't know where he lives."

"Yes, I think I do," said Dick. "He said that something was to be sent to No.-- Grosvenor Square; so he lives there, I daresay, and I can find him, perhaps."

Larkins' indignation was very great at his stupid folly, as he called it. His visions of being treated to a hot dinner at the cook-shop were melting away. Then he tried ridicule: called him "A young saint," "Pious Dick," "Parson Dick," "Preaching Dick," but all to no purpose. At length Dick escaped from his teasing by taking the turning which led to Walters' lodging, whose advice he wished to ask.

He was out. Then he went and looked for him in the market, but he was not to be found.

"I know he would tell me I ought to try and find the gentleman," he said to himself, "so I'll go at once."

He knew his way about London pretty well, though it was not often he had been to the West End, and he had to ask his road once or twice before he could find Grosvenor Square. When he got there it was some time before he could discover the number he wanted, and when he did at last pause before No.--, he felt quite frightened at seeing what a grand house it was. The doors looked so tall, and the knockers so high up, it was impossible to reach them. Then he remembered it would not be right for a poor boy to go to the front door, so he turned and went to the area gate and looked down the flight of steps that led to the kitchen. It took a great deal of courage to descend them and knock at the door below--more than he could all at once summon to his aid--and he stood irresolute, with the handle of the gate in his hand.

He went down at length and knocked timidly at the kitchen door. No one came, so after some time he knocked again and louder. It was opened by a girl, who asked him what he wanted.

"Please, I want to see the gentleman who said he lived here," said Dick.

The girl stared, and made him repeat his words. This time he spoke rather plainer, and said he wanted to see a gentleman who had given him some money an hour or two ago, in the Strand, for holding his horse.

A servant in livery crossed the passage at this moment, and heard what he said. He came to the door and exclaimed harshly--

"And so, because he gave you some money, you have come here hoping to get more, you young vagabond. That's always the way with you beggars."

"I'm not come to beg," replied Dick, indignantly. "I'm come to give the gentleman money, not to ask him for it."

"Did the gentleman bid you come?" asked the man.

"No," said Dick.

"Did any one send you?"

"No," was again the reply.

"And yet you say you've come to give the gentleman money, and not to beg," said the servant. "Now, youngster, take my advice--get off from here as fast as you can go, for it strikes me you are lurking about for no good. There's a bobby not far off who will come if I call him."

He shut the door in Dick's face, and the servant girl went back into the kitchen, and amused her companions by telling them that a boy had just come under the pretence of wanting to give some money to the master.

"That's just what those young rascals do," remarked the cook. "They are taught by the thieves who employ them to go to gentlemen's houses with some pretence that shall get them admitted inside--and then, whilst waiting, they take notice of doors and windows and bolts and keys, and go and tell their masters, who know how to set to work at night with their instruments when they come to break in. I daresay that that boy has been taking stock of the lower part of the house, for now I think of it, I saw a boy some time ago standing on the top of the area steps and looking down at the door and windows. This lad is the same, no doubt. He'll be as likely as not to come to-night with a practised house-breaker or two and try to get in."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Susan, the before-named girl, who slept in a room on the area floor with another kitchen domestic. "Dear me, cook! do you really think so? I'm sure I shan't dare to go to bed to-night."

"Take the poker to bed with you, and never fear," said the cook. "I should take a real pleasure in bringing it down on the back of a man if he had got in. I wish I'd the chance."

"Then do please, cook, change rooms with me to-night," exclaimed poor Susan, who was pale with fright, and too inexperienced in the study of human character to know that bragging was not courage. "I'm sure I should only scream if they came. I'm not brave like you."

But cook shirked exchanging rooms, saying the reason was that she could not sleep comfortably in any bed but her own, or else she'd do it with the greatest of pleasure.

While this conversation was going on in the kitchen, the innocent subject of it had ascended the steps, and was walking away from the house, when he heard the clatter of horse's hoofs behind him, and, looking round, he saw the very gentleman he was in search of coming through the square at a rapid pace. Dick recognised him in a moment, and was rejoiced to see him stop in front of No.--.

He jumped off his horse, and, as he was about to enter the house, he caught sight of Dick, who was bowing and trying to attract his attention.

"Ah, my little man," he said; "why, are not you the same small chap that held my horse in the Strand this morning?"

"Yes, sir; and, please, I have come to tell you that you gave me yellow money by mistake amongst the pence--a whole sovereign! So I have brought it for you." And he took the little packet out of his pocket and held it to him.

"What do you mean, my boy?" said Sir John Tralaway, for such was the name of the gentleman. "There surely was no gold amongst the coppers I gave you?" and he undid the paper.

A smile passed over his lips as he examined the contents. Then he looked attentively at Dick. "And so," said he, "you have brought the money back to me because you thought I had given you more than I intended. How did you find out where I lived?"

"I heard you tell the shopman to send some things to No.-- Grosvenor Square," said Dick, "and so I thought I had better come here."

"You are an honest, good boy," said Sir John; "and though you have made a mistake, and taken a bright new farthing fresh from the Mint for a sovereign, yet it is all the same thing in the sight of God, and in my eyes too, as if it had been indeed a piece of gold. Did you ever see a sovereign?" he asked.

"Never but once or twice," replied Dick, "and they looked exactly like that;" and he pointed to the bright yellow farthing in Sir John's fingers.

"Your mistake is a very natural one, my boy. Eyes more accustomed than yours to look at gold might easily have been deceived. Now come in with me and tell me all about yourself, and where you learned to be so honest."

Sir John took him into a little room by the side of the hall door, and asked him many questions. He was a man of well-known benevolence, who was ever doing some deed of public or private charity. The circumstance of Dick bringing him what he supposed to be a sovereign given by mistake touched him greatly. He listened with interest to what he told him about Walters, who was evidently a character rarely to be met with in his class of life, and told Dick to ask him to call and see him the next day at a given hour.

When he dismissed him, he gave him half-a-crown, and said he should not lose sight of him. Dick did not quite understand what he meant by that, but was sure it was something kind, and he ran off, one of the happiest little boys in all London.

He had so much to tell Walters, he scarcely knew where to begin. The old man was indeed pleased to hear that Dick's principles had stood fire under a strong temptation, and he hoped he might find a friend in Sir John at the very time he most needed one.

The next morning, Walters gave an extra brushing to his coat, an extra polish to his boots, and an extra smoothing to his Sunday hat before setting forth to Grosvenor Square. He seldom now went near the mansions of the rich, though in former days his duties had lain amongst them almost entirely.

Sir John received him with great kindness, nay, even with respect, for what Dick had said had filled him with admiration for him. Walters told him about Dick's miserable home, and of the sad example set him by his parents and the other inmates of Roan's Court. He mentioned his is love for flowers, which had first made him hover so constantly about Covent Garden Market, and so had brought him under his notice.

"Then it is to you," said Sir John, "that this little fellow is indebted for the high principle which brought him here yesterday with the supposed sovereign?"

"It's little I have been able to do for him," replied the old man, "but God has blessed that little, and He has given the child a tender, teachable mind, and a grateful, loving heart. But I wish he could be taken out of that wicked Roan's Court, where they are a drunken, dishonest lot, and his parents are as good as no parents to him."

"He _shall_ be taken away, my good man," replied Sir John. "I will think the matter over, and see you again. I suppose his parents will not object to any plan for the boy's good?"

"Not they, Sir John. They never look after him; they leave him to play about and shift for himself. I believe they would be glad enough to have him taken off their hands."

"Do you think he would like to be brought up as a gardener?" asked Sir John. "As he is so fond of flowers, I should think his tastes would lie that way."

"It would be just what would suit him," said Walters. "The lad is wild after flowers. The first thing he did yesterday after you gave him half a-crown, was to go and spend a shilling of it in buying a rose-tree in a pot for my window. The little chap wanted to give me something, so he bought what he cared most about himself."

"Well, Walters, you have been a true friend to this boy, and God will bless you for it; he shall be my care now, and I will try and follow up the good work you have begun. I have a plan in my head which, if it can be carried out, will, I think, be all you could wish for your little friend. Will you come here again next Monday and bring Dick with you? and by that time I hope I shall have arranged matters."

Sir John was as good as his word. When Walters and Dick went to Grosvenor Square at the time appointed, he asked the boy whether he would like to live in the country, and learn gardening and the management of flowers. Dick's face was worth looking at, so full was it of intense happiness at the idea. There was no occasion for him to express his assent in words.

"I have a very clever head gardener at my country house," said Sir John; "and I have written to him about you. I shall board you in his house; and if you continue to be a good boy, and try to please him by your attention and industry, I am sure you will be very happy with him and his wife; and in the gardens you will find yourself in the midst of abundance of your friends the flowers." Sir John then gave Walters money with which to buy Dick two suits of clothes and such other things as he would require, and asked him to settle the matter with his parents.

The London season being nearly over, the family were going out of town in a fortnight, and Dick was to go down to Denham Court, Sir John's country place, with some of the servants, a short time before the rest of the party.

It was not in Dick's power to say much by way of thanks; his heart was too full. But Walters, who was scarcely less pleased, spoke for him. When they had left the house and were walking down the Square, Walters said--

"Dick, you are proving the truth of those words in your copy-book which you wrote yesterday, that 'Honesty is the best policy.'"

CHAPTER III.

A NEW HOME.

WE have now to request our readers to follow Dick to a very different scene to that of Roan's Court. His parents were glad he had found such grand friends, and were quite willing to part with him. They were not improving in their habits, but rather the reverse. Walters did as Sir John had requested, and bought the boy suitable clothes and other necessaries for his new position in life. He looked so different when dressed in a cloth suit, with a white collar and black necktie, that he could scarcely be recognised for the same boy who had worn the old garments out of the blue clothes bag. The children in Roan's Court gathered round him when he first appeared in his new attire on the day he was to leave altogether, and stared at their old playmate with astonishment. A few of the elder ones, amongst whom was Larkins (who had never got over the hot dinner disappointment), derided him, called after him "Gentleman Dick," and other nicknames. He was not sorry when he was fairly out of hearing, and on his way to Walters, who had promised to go with him to Grosvenor Square, and say good-bye there. An omnibus was standing at the door when they arrived, which was to take the servants to the station. It was being loaded under the eye of a manservant. When he saw Walters and Dick, he directed them to go down into the kitchen, where all was bustle and confusion from the hurry of departure. Amongst the servants going away was Susan, who had been so terrified lest Dick should prove an accomplice of burglars. She looked at him with very complacent feelings now, for Sir John had told the story of the bright farthing, and explained that he had spoken truth when he said he wanted to give the gentleman some money and not to beg of him. With his usual kind thoughtfulness, the baronet had been anxious that the servants should feel an interest in their young fellow-traveller, who would naturally be strange and shy amongst them all.

At length all was ready, and Dick was told to take his place in the omnibus with the others. He was very sorry to say farewell to his dear old friend, who, in his turn, felt as if his home would be lonely without the bright, merry face he was so accustomed to see popping in constantly.

"God bless you, my lad," he said. "Never forget your prayers. Remember, those are my parting words to you."

Then came the rumbling of the omnibus, and the arrival at the station; and after that the puffing of the steam-engine, and for the first time Dick saw houses and churches rushing away from them, as it seemed to him. Soon, great, busy London was left behind, and houses and churches only came at intervals, but green fields and trees took their place, and they were in the country, which was far more beautiful than Dick's wildest dreams had ever pictured it. He was quite surprised that all the servants talked away to each other, and scarcely ever turned their heads to look out of the window. Susan was the only one who seemed to understand his admiration. She was very kind, and gave him her place in the corner that he might see better; and she pointed out things to him, and told him the names of the places they passed through, for she had been so often backwards and forwards that the road was quite familiar to her and her fellow-servants.

Towards evening they arrived at a station, where they stopped. Here an open carriage was waiting, large enough to hold them all, and the luggage followed in a cart. Dick had a delightful place on the box between the driver and the footman, from which he could see the hedges and trees, etc., to perfection as they drove rapidly past them. After a drive of about a mile, they came in sight of a large mansion standing on a rising ground in the midst of beautiful gardens, which glowed with flowers of every colour. The carriage stopped at a lodge, and now Dick was told he was to get down, as here he was to live with the gardener and his wife. A pleasant, motherly-looking woman appeared at the door, who was addressed as Mrs Naylor. She gave the servants a kindly greeting, and as the carriage drove on, took hold of Dick's hand, and said she was sure he must be tired and hungry, and had better have some tea directly. She took him into a nice pleasant kitchen, where a table was spread with a substantial tea. Her little lads came running in to look at the new boy, and to do justice to the viands. They were followed by Mr Naylor, the gardener--a tall, fine-looking man, with a rather grave face.

[Illustration: SUSAN AND DICK IN THE RAILWAY-CARRIAGE.]

He spoke kindly to Dick, and said he had heard all about him from Sir John, and he hoped he would be a good boy, and then he should be glad to have him to lodge in his house.

Dick thought he had never been so hungry or tasted such good food. After tea, Mrs Naylor showed him a room in which he was to sleep. It was very small, little more than a large closet, but there was in it everything he could want, and it had a window looking into a garden full of flowers. He was so thoroughly tired with his journey and with the day's excitement, that Mrs Naylor proposed he should go to bed, and he was thankful to do so. Probably no little boy in England slept a sounder sleep or had a happier heart than our young hero that night.

CHAPTER IV.

LIFE AT DENHAM COURT.

IT will be easier for the reader to imagine than for me to describe the delight of a young London boy, removed from such a home as that of Dick's in Roan's Court, to this in which he awoke the morning after his arrival. Mrs Naylor was disposed to be pleased with her young charge. Her husband at first thought him too young and ignorant to have been worth transplanting from London to Denham Court. It was "one of Sir John's whims," he said to his wife. However, the liberal board that they were to receive for him was not to be despised, and being so young was a fault which he would gradually grow out of. Then as for his ignorance, he soon found it was not so great as he supposed. Thanks to Walters, he could read and write very fairly; and what astonished Naylor greatly, was finding he knew the names of almost all the flowers in the gardens, and of some in the greenhouses. He had supposed he would not know a bit of groundsel from a fern, he said. But the mystery was explained when he found that he had been so constantly in Covent Garden Market, where he had contrived to learn the different names of shrubs and flowers as few other boys would have done. There were a good many men employed about the grounds, and several boys, who came from the village every morning and returned home to their meals and to sleep at night. Dick was looked at with curiosity at first, because Sir John had sent him down from London and was boarding him at his head gardener's. It was all very new and strange to him, and he could not help feeling rather lonely at times. Sir John and his family were gone to the sea for a little while, and were not expected till the shooting season began. Dick rather longed to see Sir John's kind face again, and he felt so grateful to him for his kindness that he thought he never could do enough to show his gratitude.

The work that was given him in the gardens was easy enough. Clearing the gravel walks of weeds, carrying in vegetables and fruit to the house, or sometimes--and this he liked best--helping one of the under gardeners to pot geraniums or other plants. One of his greatest treats was to be allowed to go through the hothouses and greenhouses with Mr Naylor, who began to grow fond of the intelligent lad, and to think that after all Sir John knew what he was about when he sent him down to learn gardening. "He's an uncommon little chap," he said to his wife one day--"nothing seems to escape his observation; and if I tell him the name of a plant or flower he remembers it. Most boys would forget it as soon as told. Such a memory as he's got will do him good service some day."

"He's a nice, good little fellow," remarked Mrs Naylor, "and so obliging. He's always ready to run errands for me of an evening, or to play with the little boys. I thought I shouldn't like having him when Sir John first wrote about his coming, but I declare I'd sooner have him here than not. And as for Ned and Tommy, they follow him like their shadow whenever he's in the house."

Ned and Tommy were Mrs Naylor's own two children. They were merry little fellows, several years younger than Dick. To them he was a great acquisition. When the day's work was over, they were sure to be watching for him at the lodge gate, to claim his services in mending their paper kites, and to help to fly them when mended, as well as many other similar offices, such as good-natured older boys can execute for little ones. No wonder that Mrs Naylor's motherly feelings made her think she would sooner have Dick as an inmate than not.

When the days were beginning to shorten, and the first delicate tinge of autumn brown was stealing gently over the green foliage, it was announced that Sir John and the family were coming home. They had been detained at the sea longer than was at first intended, owing to the illness of one of the young ladies. But now the day was fixed, and preparations were being made for them both within and without the house. Even Dick had to be busy. Not a weed must be seen on the walks, not a dead leaf on the geranium beds. Pot plants were to be placed in rows on either side of the broad terrace in front of the house, and others had to be carried into the drawing-room to fill the jardinière and baskets. Also the conservatory adjoining the morning-room was to be adorned with choice flowers from the greenhouses. Dick carried and fetched, carried and fetched, till his arms ached; but they might almost have dropped off before he would have given in, so pleased was he to have such a chance for seeing the tasteful and artistic way in which Mr Naylor arranged the different plants according to their colouring. When all was complete, Mr Naylor stepped to a little distance to see that the effect was quite to his mind, and he caught sight of Dick standing in such enrapt admiration that he fixed his gaze on him for a moment rather than on the flowers.

"Well, Dick," said he, "what do you think of it?"

"Oh, sir, it is beautiful! I could look at it for ever."

"The boy is born to be a gardener," said Mr Naylor to himself. "He ought to begin and learn Latin. I shall tell Sir John so."

All honour was due to worthy, honest-hearted Mr Naylor, that not a shade of jealousy crossed his mind about Dick, although he hoped to bring up his two boys to his own profession. Full of taste and intelligence himself, he quickly saw that the boy was naturally gifted with these qualities in no common degree, and felt they ought to be thoroughly cultivated.

The next day the family arrived. Dick was standing at the lodge, well pleased to be allowed to throw open the gates for the carriage to enter, and to receive a smile and nod from Sir John as he sat inside it with his wife and daughters.

The report that Mr Naylor was able to give of his charge was very satisfactory to the benevolent baronet, and he quite agreed with him that it would be well to let the boy have some education. There was an excellent village school in Denham, and a superior schoolmaster. So it was arranged for Dick to attend school every morning, and be in the garden in the afternoon. The schoolmaster also agreed to teach him Latin three evenings in the week.

"Sir John never does things by halves," remarked Mrs Naylor to her husband. "He'll be the making of that boy, you'll see."

"He'll help him to be the making of himself," replied Naylor. "Dick is a boy, if I mistake not, who will make good use of whatever advantages are held out to him."

Time went on. Dick learnt quickly, and pleased his master. He was a favourite with most people from his good humour and readiness to oblige. Sir John took great interest in his improvement; and his wife and daughter often stopped and spoke to the boy who had come to Denham Court under such peculiar circumstances.

But go where we will, happen to us what will in this world, trouble of some sort is sure to crop up, and Dick was not without his, even in his happy life at Denham Court. It seems strange that he could have an enemy, but so it was. There was a boy named George Bentham, who was employed in the gardens, and who from the first had looked upon the London lad with jealousy and dislike. He saw that he was a favourite with Sir John and with Mr Naylor, and being of a mean and selfish disposition, he took an aversion to him for this reason. To use his own expression, he liked to _spite_ him. That is to say, he never lost an occasion of saying or doing anything that he thought would be disagreeable to him; and it is wonderful how much petty tyranny may be exercised by one boy over another when opportunities are sought. For instance, he would sometimes hide his garden tools to cause him to waste time in searching for them, and so bring on him Mr Naylor's displeasure. One day in autumn, when Dick had been industriously sweeping up the fallen leaves in one of the walks, and had gone to fetch a wheelbarrow to carry them away, he found that some one had, during his short absence, scattered the heaps which he had so carefully piled up at regular distances, so that his work had almost all to be done over again. He had been told to finish it by eleven o'clock, at which hour Lady Tralaway generally came to walk there, as being a sunny, sheltered spot. He did his very best to try and set it all right in time, but the leaves at the end of the walk were in a sadly untidy state when her ladyship appeared with one of her daughters. She remarked on the unswept state of the path, and asked Dick to have it cleared earlier another day; and she repeated her request to Mr Naylor a little later, when she met him in the greenhouse. This caused Mr Naylor to reprove Dick for idleness, and he seemed inclined to think that what he said about the leaves having been scattered was all an excuse, especially as Dick could not say who had done it, though in his secret heart he felt quite sure he knew.

Another ill-natured trick that was played on Dick by an unseen, though to him not an unknown hand, was when he one day left his slate for a few minutes on a seat just inside the lodge gate, on which was a difficult sum over which he had spent a long time the evening before, and had at last mastered, though with great difficulty. He had just started to go to school, slate and books in hand, when he remembered he had forgotten one of them, and ran back into the lodge to fetch it. He could not immediately find it, though he was not away from his slate for more than five or six minutes, and it stood precisely where he had left it when he returned. He snatched it up and ran off, but it was not till he had got near the school-house that he discovered the lower figures of the sum were all rubbed out carefully as with a sponge. He was sorely distressed, but could only tell the master of what had happened, and begged to be allowed to do it over again that evening. The master, accustomed to boys often making excuses at the expense of truth, reproved him for leaving his slate so carelessly about, and said he could not understand who would care to take the trouble to do such a thing as efface the figures just to get him into a scrape. Dick saw he was not believed, and it distressed him a good deal. Yet he could not tell his suspicions about George, for he had no proof that he had done it. He only knew that about that time he generally passed through the gate on his way back from breakfast, and he also knew that he would be quite ready to do him such a bit of mischief as this.

Old Walters did not forget his little friend, nor did Dick lose his warm, affectionate love for him. They exchanged letters from time to time, and the correspondence was very useful in keeping up in Dick's mind the remembrance of all Walters had taught him. Sir John kindly sent for the old man when he was in town to give a favourable report of the boy, and tell him that Mr Naylor was well satisfied with him, and believed he would one day make a first-rate gardener, for that his good taste was something quite unusual, and his general intelligence of no ordinary stamp.

"I should like him to be a great gardener some day," said Walters; "and still more, I should like him to be a good man, with the fear of God ever before him."

"I trust he will be both, my friend," said Sir John. "How are his parents going on?"

"Worse than ever," said Walters. "The mother is in such a wretched state of health from drinking that she is not likely to be long alive, and the father is seldom sober. I went lately to tell them I had heard from their boy, but they seemed very indifferent to what he was doing, and scarcely asked any questions about him. They will probably soon both be in the Union."

"Then it is clear it is no use bringing up their son to London to see them," said Sir John, "as I would have done had they been respectable. He is better to be quite separated from them under the circumstances."

"Far better, Sir John. Roan's Court is no place for him now. The sooner he forgets the very existence of what goes on there the better. I should like to see my lad again some day, please God, but it's not likely, for I'm getting nigh to seventy, and though I'm hale and hearty as ever now, yet at my age I mustn't expect many more years. God bless you, Sir John, for being such a friend to him; he's got strangely about my heart, and I shall pray for him whilst I live."

CHAPTER V.

THE VISITOR AT THE LODGE.

THAT spring, like other springs, passed away. The London season was longer than usual, for Parliament had weighty and important matters to discuss, and families longing to be in the country were obliged to remain in hot, dusty London till August. Amongst the number of these was that of Sir John Tralaway, who was an active member of the House of Commons. But at length the House broke up, and without loss of time the great world fled from the heated atmosphere to go and enjoy either the mountain breezes of Switzerland or the refreshing shades of English country houses.

Sir John's domestics went off as usual a day or two before the rest of the family, to make all ready for their arrival. No one was better pleased than Dick that the season was over. He liked to see the ladies walking or riding about the grounds, and to have their kind smile and almost daily greeting. Also he loved to have the encouraging word which was sure to be given by Sir John when he had questioned Naylor and the schoolmaster about him, and heard a good report.

On the day when the servants were to arrive, Mrs Naylor told Dick that she had a friend coming to visit them, and she should be glad if he would give up his room for the time. She proposed making him up a bed in her boys' room, at which arrangement the two youngsters expressed their warm approbation, for Dick was as great a favourite with them as ever. When evening came he took care to be in the way to open the gate, and so be the first to give a welcome.

The carriage came and turned in, but instead of driving on, it stopped at the lodge. The door behind was opened, and the footman assisted out an old gentleman, who wore a great-coat, notwithstanding its being a warm evening, and a well-brushed beaver hat. Mrs Naylor hastened out to receive him, but before she could speak Dick had flown into Walters' arms.

It had been kind Sir John's contrivance to give him a surprise. He had asked the Naylors to receive him as their guest, and when he found their willingness to do so, he proposed to him to go down into the country with his servants, and spend several weeks under the same roof as Dick.

[Illustration: THE MEETING OF MR WALTERS AND DICK.]

He knew the pleasure it would give to both to be together again. He had desired that Dick should not be told who was Mrs Naylor's expected guest.

Dick was more altered than Walters. He had grown taller and stouter, and his cheeks were rounder and more rosy than they had been when he lived in Roan's Court.

"Now come in, Mr Walters," said Mrs Naylor, when the first surprise and greeting was over. "Come in, we'll do our best to make you comfortable, and I'm sure I hope you'll spend a pleasant time here. It shan't be our fault if you don't. As for Dick, I expect he won't sleep a wink to-night for joy."

It was a pleasant reception, and when the old man went to bed in Dick's little chamber, he kneeled and thanked God for this new and unexpected mercy that had been vouchsafed him. As for Dick, far from fulfilling Mrs Naylor's prognostication that he would not sleep a wink, he was in so profound a slumber, at the hour when the other two lads awoke in the morning, that they had a delightful excuse for jumping on his bed and playing off a variety of tricks in order, as they said, to "arouse him thoroughly."

Very pleased and proud was Dick to take his old friend over the gardens and numerous glass-houses, containing such fruits and flowers as he had never seen even in former days, when he had visited with his master at gentlemen's houses. Dick had an entire holiday given him the day after Walters' arrival, both from school and from gardening, and Mr Naylor told him to take his friend where he liked. Such a permission made him feel of almost as much importance as if he were master of the estate himself. He found it difficult to limit his own pace to that of Walters', so eager was he to go from one place to another, always assuring him the next thing he had to show was far better than any he had yet seen. Walters' admiration quite satisfied him, for it was unbounded.

CHAPTER VI.

SIR JOHN'S PROPOSAL.

A MONTH passed, and still old Walters was a visitor at the lodge. Still he might be seen sitting on fine days under a wide-spreading oak-tree in the park, sometimes leaning forward with his chin resting on his stick, at others reading his large Bible as it lay upon his knees. Not unfrequently Sir John might be observed sitting by his side, for he delighted in his remarks, so full of simple piety and humility, and consequently of instruction to himself. The high-born baronet was not above being edified by the conversation of the aged pilgrim, whose mind seemed ripening fast for the world which could not be far distant from him. But Walters began to speak in earnest of returning to London. His feelings were sensitive and delicate, and though urged to remain longer, he would not take advantage of the kindness that proposed it. He said he had been permitted to spend a month of happiness amidst God's beautiful country works with his dear boy Dick, but now the time was come for him to return to his room and his old ways in London.

"And perhaps you feel more at home there than in any other place," said Sir John one morning, when he had been talking to him on his favourite bench under the oak-tree. "You have lived there so many years that this country life may seem irksome to you after the long habit of the other."

"Nay," replied he, "London will seem very lonely after such a month as I have spent here in my boy's company, with everybody showing me such kindness. And I shall miss the trees and the flowers, and the songs of the birds. No, Sir John, I could find it in my heart to wish I could end my days in the country, but God has willed it otherwise, and given me a home I do not deserve, although it is amongst the crowd and bustle and noise. Besides, why did I say I should be lonely? Shall I not have _Him_"--and he uncovered his head, as was his wont, at the great name--"who died for me, and loves me, and will never leave me nor forsake me?"

Sir John was silent for a few moments; then he spoke to him on a subject he had been turning over in his mind for some days. "You are right, my worthy friend," he said; "no place can be lonely to you, and God will assuredly watch over you to the end. But suppose He were to point out that His way of doing so, as far as this world is concerned, would be to give you a home in the country, where you would be cared for in health and in sickness, and where the remainder of your years would pass in quietness and repose, would you not be willing to follow His leading?"

"Assuredly, assuredly," replied Walters, not in the least seeing the drift of his remark. "But as such has not been His will, I thank Him gratefully for my little room in town."

"Now listen to me, my friend," said the baronet. "It seems to me that just as it was put into my heart to take Dick from the scenes of sin and temptation he was exposed to in Roan's Court, so now it is given me to have the privilege of making your last years far more comfortable than they would be in your lodging in town. The proposal I wish to make to you is this: I have a cottage in the village which I have given for her life to an attached faithful old servant, who lives there with her niece. It is larger than she requires, and she says she could quite well spare the little parlour and the bedroom over it, and that she would be very glad to have you as a lodger, and she and her niece would do their best to make you comfortable. I will take all the arrangements for you on myself, so you will only have to return to London to pack up your things and bid your present landlady good-bye, and then come back again to your new country home, where you may see Dick every day."

Walters was silent. He could not speak. He took in all Sir John's plan for him, and the lonely old man's heart leaped at the thought of living near the child of his love. At length he rose, and with a voice quivering with emotion, said--

"I thank you, I do indeed thank you, Sir John. It seems too much, too much happiness for such an one as I am. But my whole life has been filled with mercies, and this may be going to be the crowning one. May I think over it? I am too old to be able all at once to decide. When I have been alone awhile I can better answer you."

"Take as long as you like to think it over," replied Sir John--"there is no hurry whatever." Then kindly shaking hands with him, he went away, for he saw that Walters was a good deal overcome. Yet he knew that though he left him, he would not be alone, but that he would seek the counsel and direction of Him whom he had for so long made his dearest Friend.

CHAPTER VII.

RETURNING GOOD FOR EVIL.

WALTERS soon made up his mind, and with much thankfulness accepted Sir John's offer of a home in Denham. That gentleman took him to see the cottage in which he proposed he should occupy two rooms, and introduced him to good Mrs Benson, who, with her niece, promised to do all they could for his comfort. He could only exclaim every now and then, "Too good, too good for me! Who would have thought of such a home as this coming to me in my old age?"

He went back to London, packed up his few goods and chattels, and bid good-bye to his friends in Covent Garden. He was well known there, and all were sorry to part with him, but glad to hear of his good fortune. His landlady regretted losing her quiet lodger, whose regular payments and steady habits she knew how to value. It was with quite a heavy heart she saw him into the cab that was to take him to the station. She did the last good office she could for him by putting into his hand a paper parcel containing some sandwiches, that he might not be hungry on the journey.

Dick's delight when he found his dear old friend was going to move to Denham may be easily imagined. He only regretted that he had to go back to London at all.

Mrs Benson was quite ready for him when he arrived one evening in the middle of October. Dick went to meet him at the station in the conveyance sent by Sir John to take him to the cottage, and was glad to be the one to lead him into the comfortable little sitting-room, where a bright fire was burning and tea laid out on the round table. Mrs Benson followed, looking and saying kind things, and her niece bustled about to make the tea and toast the bread. It rather distressed him to be waited on thus; he had always been accustomed to do these things for himself; but he comforted his mind by saying that they must not think he should give them such trouble in future.

In a very short time he was quite settled, and seeing that he would really prefer it, Mrs Benson allowed him to wait a good deal on himself, and to do in every respect as he had been accustomed. The neighbours soon learned to like the gentle, kind old man who was ever ready to perform any little service for them in his power, such as going on an errand, sitting with a sick child, or reading to an invalid of riper years.

George Bentham's character did not improve as he got older. He was so unsatisfactory in many ways that Mr Naylor would have dismissed him altogether, had it not been for Sir John's kind desire to keep him on, for he knew the wages he gave were higher than he would obtain elsewhere. Neither he nor Naylor were aware of the dislike he had from the first taken to Dick, who never named the annoyances he had to bear from him to any one except Walters.

"I have never done anything to him," he said one day; "yet he is always trying to spite me in every way he can. I really will begin and give it him back again. I know twenty ways in which I can do him a bad turn."

"Stop, stop, my boy," said Walters, "I don't like to hear you speak so. That would be spite for spite. The dear Master did not act so when they tried all they could to vex Him. Yet _He_ never did wrong in any way. You, on the contrary, are constantly standing in need of forgiveness from God. So you must learn to forgive even as you would be forgiven."

"I will try," said Dick, feeling rather ashamed of his speech.

"Do, my lad; but you won't be able to do it in your own strength, for it goes contrary to human nature. You must pray--nothing like prayer--and so you will find. And then, Dick, there's another thing to remember. Look here"--and Walters turned over the leaves of the Bible that was never far from his hand--"see this verse which the Master spoke for the good of boys as much as for older people, 'Do _good_ to them that hate you.' You see you must not be content with only forgiving."

"But what can I do for George?" asked Dick. "I never go near him if I can help--there isn't any good I can do him in any way."

"Yes, lad, you can say a prayer for him now and then; and if ever you see he needs a bit of help at any time, be you the one to offer it, and you'll get a blessing, take my word for it."

They were sitting by the fireside in Walters' little parlour. Dick had been to take his Latin lesson. As Mrs Benson's cottage lay on his way home, he had turned in to see Walters. He was about to bid good-bye to him after these last words, but the old man stopped him and said--

"Wait a bit, and I'll tell you something that will show you how bad a thing is spite or revenge. Maybe it will prevent you ever feeling the desire to vex a person back because they vex you. It's a sad story, but you shall hear it, though the very telling of it gives me a pain all these long years after.

"When I was a young man I was very fond of horses, and liked to be about them. My father wanted me to become a schoolmaster in a village, because I'd had a better education than most boys of my sort; but nothing would serve me but to go about the stables. So my father spoke to our squire about it, and he said I should go under his coachman, and so I did; and I got to understand horses, and could ride and drive them--according to my own thinking--as well as the coachman himself, when suddenly my master died and the establishment was all broken up. I returned home to wait till I could find another situation. Just at this time a young man about my own age, named James Bennett, came home out of place likewise. He had been, like myself, in a gentleman's stables, and had only left his place because the family had gone abroad. He and I had lived near each other as boys, and had had many a game together, but we had not met for three or four years, as he had been away in quite another part of England. We used to see one another pretty often, as we had neither of us much to do then but to idle about.

"It so happened that just at this time a Mr Anderson, living about two miles off, wanted a groom quite unexpectedly, and a friend of mine called and advised me to lose no time in applying for the situation, as a new servant must be had instantly. James Bennett happened to be in our cottage when I was told this, but he left it almost instantly. I lost no time, but went upstairs and put on my best clothes; and then I set out, to walk to Newton Hall, where Mr Anderson lived. I was anxious for the place, for I knew it was a good one; and as it had only become vacant a few hours, I felt I had a real good chance of getting it. When I arrived there I was shown in to Mr Anderson, who said I was a likely enough fellow, but that he had just seen another young man whom he had promised to take if his character satisfied him. 'You know him probably,' he said, 'for he comes from your village; his name is James Bennett.'

"I started with surprise and indignation. In an instant I saw just how it was. James had heard what my friend had said about Mr Anderson's situation being vacant, and advising me to lose no time in applying. He had quietly sneaked of and got before me; for, as I afterwards found, he had had a lift in a gig, whilst I walked all the way, so he had considerably the start of me.

"I left the house full of angry feelings, and despising James from the bottom of my heart for his meanness; and I took care to tell him so. He could not defend himself, though he tried to make out it was all fair play, and a case of first go, first served.

"He got the place and went to it directly, on good wages. I, on the other hand, could not hear of one anywhere. I used to see James ride by, exercising his new master's horse, and my thoughts were very bitter.

"Mr Anderson had a daughter who was very delicate, and was ordered horse exercise. Her father had bought her a beautiful creature which had Arab blood in its veins--that means that it was high bred and full of spirit. Now Miss Anderson had not yet been allowed to mount him because he had such a bad trick of shying when he came to any water. There was a certain pool which lay by the roadside between our village and Mr Anderson's house, which he would never pass without a great fuss. The former groom and Mr Anderson had tried in vain to cure him of the trick. James said he thought he should be able to do it, and he was proud to try.

"So he took him in hand. Every day he practised the animal. He tamed him at last so that he scarcely moved an ear when he saw the pond. I heard that after one day's more practice he meant to pronounce him quite cured. Now all this time I was feeling angry, and longing to spite him for the trick he had played me. I grudged him the fame of having cured the horse of shying, for I knew I could have done it as well, and I was always thinking about the way he had stolen the place from me.

"Well, Dick, Satan saw now that was a fine time for him, and he made the most of it. He put into my heart to do a mean trick by which I thought to pay James back something of what I owed him.

"I bought some crackers and put them in my pocket, and I walked to the place where the pond lay, a little before the time when I knew James would come with the horse. My idea was to conceal myself behind the thick hedge, and pull a cracker just at the moment the horse was passing the pond. I thought so to startle him that it would make him worse than ever about shying in future, and then all James's trouble would be thrown away, and he would not have the credit of curing him of the bad habit.

"I crept behind the hedge and was completely hidden. After a time I heard horse's hoofs, and saw James come up. He walked by the pond, slowly at first, then he went quicker, and next he trotted. The pretty creature was quite quiet. Then he went to a little distance, and put him into a canter. Now was my time; I pulled my cracker just as he got to the pond. The horse sprang up into the air, bolted forward, and the next instant was running away fast and fleet as the very wind. I heard the hoofs going at a mad pace, and I knew his rider had lost all control over him. Not for one moment had I intended to drive the horse wild like that. The most I had thought of was to cause him to prance and kick, and begin his old trick of not passing the pond. I felt no anxiety lest any real harm would come of it. I knew James was a good rider, and supposed he would give the horse his head for awhile and then pull him in. So I walked home, thinking I had paid Master James off in some degree at all events.

"We were just finishing dinner when a neighbour looked in, and asked if we had heard what had happened. He said that James Bennett had been riding Mr Anderson's horse, and that it had run away with him and thrown him violently against a milestone; that he was taken up quite senseless, and it was feared there was concussion of the brain! He had been carried to a farmhouse close by, which there was little chance of his leaving alive. It was dreadful hearing for me. I felt as if I should have committed murder, if he died! Not that I had wished really to harm him bodily in any way. I could comfort myself a little with that thought, but I had intended to do him a mischief of another kind; and now the ugliness of the sin of revenge rose up before me in its true colours, and I hated myself.

"I kept my own secret. I argued that it could make matters neither better nor worse to tell what had made the horse run off. But I was very wretched. I walked to the farm towards evening to inquire after him. They said he was still insensible, and the doctor could give little hope. His parents were there, and Mr Anderson drove up as I was going away, having brought a second doctor with him. It was a comfort to know that he would be well cared for. The next day he had come to himself when I went to inquire, but there was no more hope than before. He lay in a very precarious state for a week, and then there was a change for the better. A few days more and the doctor said he would live, but that it would be many months probably before he would be well enough to go into service again. Mr Anderson was very kind, and promised to continue his wages to enable him to live at home till he was quite well. But he could not keep his place open for him, so he offered it to me.

"I positively declined to accept it, much to Mr Anderson's surprise. I felt that I could not endure to reap any benefit from my wrong-doing. My conscience had been tormenting me ever since the accident, and I made up my mind that I would never take a situation as groom again, for the very sight of a horse made me uncomfortable. In a short time, thanks to my late mistress's recommendation, I obtained a place as personal servant to a gentleman who was going on the Continent for a couple of years. Now it seems natural that new countries and new ways should put what had just passed out of my head; but they didn't, though I certainly did enjoy travelling about very much. We went to France and Germany, stopping for a time at all the principal cities, and then we went to Italy and spent some time in Rome. But notwithstanding the novelty of all around me I was not altogether happy. I believe I was beginning to feel what a sinful heart I had then, and I often longed to open my mind to some one, but there was nobody I knew to whom I liked to speak. However, God had His own designs for me, as you will hear.

"My master visited Venice on our return home, and from there he took an excursion through some mountains called 'The Dolomites.' One day, as we were crossing a narrow plank thrown across a steep gorge, my foot slipped and I fell down a very considerable distance on to a hard rock, and it is wonderful that I was not killed on the spot. I was taken up senseless by some peasants who were fortunately near, and carried into a hut, where my master joined me, and he and they did all in their power to restore consciousness. I recovered my senses after awhile, but I had to lie in that hut for upwards of ten days, and during that time I looked back on my past life and saw how sinful I had been, and I trembled when I thought how death and I had been face to face when I fell into the gorge. My revengeful conduct towards James Bennett stared me in the face in such black colours as it had never done before. 'What would have become of me had I been killed?' was my constant thought.

"When I returned to England I went to live with a clergyman, who was a good and holy man, to whom, after awhile, I ventured to open my mind. He taught me what my Saviour had done for me by His death, and how I might look for pardon through His merits, and grace and help for the future. I have told you all this, Dick, that you may beware of ever wishing to give what is called 'tit for tat.' Now go home, and whenever you say your prayers ask God to keep you from all malice and bitterness."

This advice of Walters came at a very opportune time, for not long after Dick had occasion to bring it to mind.

It was George Bentham's duty to shut up the greenhouse windows at a certain hour in the afternoon, and Mr Naylor was extremely particular on this point. He had neglected it once or twice, and had been severely reprimanded but when a third time Mr Naylor found the windows open late, he took the duty away from him entirely, and gave it to Dick in his presence, remarking that he felt sure he might trust him. George said nothing at the time, but his jealousy increased. He went away revolving in his mind how he could lower Dick in Mr Naylor's opinion, and a way soon suggested itself.

Dick was surprised one evening after he had carefully closed the windows in the afternoon at the proper time, by Mr Naylor reproving him sharply when he came in to tea for having left one of them open.

"Indeed, sir, I shut them all," said Dick.

"You mean you _meant_ to do so, but were careless and forgot the end one," said Mr Naylor. "Now don't get into the way of making excuses; better own your fault at once, and say you will be more careful in future; then I shall have hope that it will not happen again."

Dick said no more. He was puzzled, for he felt almost sure he _had_ shut that end window. Yet how could it have got open again? No one ever went near the greenhouses in the afternoon after they were shut. He always turned the key on the outside when he went out, though he left it in the door by order, because Mr Naylor went his rounds towards evening, and then took the keys home with him. At length he was obliged to come to the conclusion that he must have overlooked that window without being aware of it.

About a week afterwards a frost set in, and though it was sunny and fine for some hours, the air grew cold directly the sun began to decline, and Dick received orders to close the windows earlier than customary, and he did so.

The head gardener went the rounds as usual that afternoon before going home to tea. The cold was severe, and his vigilance for his plants was consequently greater than ever.

As he came to the door of the greenhouse he thought he heard a slight noise within, and looked carefully about on opening the door, but could see nothing to have caused it, so thought it must have been fancy. When he examined the windows he found one of them wide open.

"Again!" he said to himself. "So that boy is as bad as the other, and must be trusted no more." He shut it, and a second time fancied he heard a noise, and listened, but all was still. When he went home he spoke more angrily to Dick than he had ever done before, and desired him not to enter the greenhouses again, since he found he could not be trusted. "Had I not gone in there," he said, "and seen that the window was left wide open, some of the choicest of the plants must have been frostbitten."

"But indeed, indeed, I shut them every one, sir," exclaimed Dick. "Some one must have gone in after me, and opened that window. Oh! it was too bad; it must have been done from spite."

"I can scarcely believe that," said the gardener. "Excuses of that sort won't help you."

"It is not an excuse, sir. _Do_ believe me, for indeed I shut all the windows carefully."

"Maybe the lad is right," said Mrs Naylor, who was fond of Dick, and had always found him truthful. "Perhaps some one has a grudge against him, and took that way of doing him a mischief."

"Have you any reason to suppose you have an enemy?" inquired Mr Naylor.

"Yes, I have, sir," replied Dick.

"Who is it?"

Dick did not reply; he was not sure whether he ought to name him.

But Johnnie Naylor, who with his brother was present, exclaimed--

"George Bentham is his enemy, I think, for he said the other day he hated Dick, because he was put over him about the windows just because he was a favourite."

A new idea appeared to strike Mr Naylor. He seemed in deep thought for a moment. He was thinking of the noise he fancied he had heard. Then taking down a lantern and lighting the lamp within, he strode off without a word, and took his way to the greenhouse.

Unlocking the door, he entered, and closed it after him. Again there was a slight noise. This time he was sure that something alive was there besides himself, and he began to search.

[Illustration: "HE RAISED HIS LANTERN AND LOOKED BEHIND A TIER OF SHELVES."]

The house was a good-sized one, and he examined every corner, but in vain. Then he raised his lantern and looked behind a tier of shelves which stood out a little way from the wall.

A dark figure was there crouching down. It was George Bentham, who, with a face white as ashes, came forth at Mr Naylor's command.

"What are you doing here, sir?" he asked, in a voice of thunder.

"I got locked in, sir."

"And what brought you here at all?"

The ready lie that he would fain have had rise to his lips, failed him from actual terror, and he was silent.

"I will tell you why you are here," said the gardener. "You came to open that window in order to get an innocent companion into trouble, and to have it supposed that he was careless and had neglected his duty, and it is the second time you have done the base deed. You are a coward of the worst kind, and you shall come with me instantly to Sir John himself, and hear his opinion of your conduct."

Then George found his voice, and implored Mr Naylor to punish him in any way rather than take him before Sir John, but in vain. He marched him off without another word, and made him walk before him to the house, where he requested to see the baronet.

Very shocked and indignant was Sir John at what he heard about the wretched boy before him, who did not attempt to deny that he had hoped to bring Dick into disgrace, and so had slipped into the greenhouse to open the window, but had not time to escape before Mr Naylor came and locked him in. He had no way of getting out without breaking the windows, owing to their peculiar method of opening. He acknowledged that Dick had never done him any harm, and could only say in reply to the questions put to him, that "he had never liked him."

Sir John dismissed him from his service on the spot, and told him his opinion of his conduct in terms which remained in his memory for many a day.

Dick was very glad when Mr Naylor told him the mystery about the open window had been cleared up; but to his credit be it spoken, he was really grieved to hear that George was to work no more in the gardens. He longed to plead for him, but knew it would be useless, as Sir John and Mr Naylor were so seriously displeased. But when a little time had passed by, and George was still without regular employment, hanging about the village, often reminded by jeers and taunts of his mean conduct, Dick felt more and more sorry for him, and at length he ventured to ask Mr Naylor if he would say a good word for him to Sir John.

"And so _you_ want him to be taken on again, do you?" was the reply. "That's queer, now."

But queer as he thought it, Naylor could appreciate Dick's forgiving spirit, and admired it sufficiently to induce him to ask Sir John if the boy might have another trial, and he obtained his consent. He took care to tell George who it was had pleaded for his return. The boy had avoided Dick since his disgrace, but this generous conduct quite overcame him. Though foreign to his own nature to act thus, he was touched and grateful, and actually thanked Dick, and told him he was sorry he had behaved so shabbily to him. From that day the two lads were good friends. George never again annoyed Dick.

We must pass over the next few years of Dick's history more rapidly. He did not disappoint the expectations of those who had done so much for him. He improved rapidly, and developed so strong a taste for landscape gardening that Sir John and Mr Naylor advised him to lay himself out chiefly for that branch of the profession, and every aid was given him to do so. Sir John thought that his steady character, united to considerable natural talent, well deserved encouragement. The result was, that when he grew to manhood he introduced him to the notice of several families of distinction, and he soon began to get a name and to acquire a considerable income. Walters lived to see him married and prosperous, and ever true to the principles he had instilled into him as a child.

At a good old age dear old John Walters passed away to his rest. His death was calm and happy as his life had been. His remains lie in the little churchyard at Denham, a plain white stone marking the spot. Many still remember and speak of him with affection. Amongst the number is Sir John, now himself grown old. Sometimes he has been heard to exclaim, as he pauses an instant before the grave--

"Let my last end be like his!"

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[Transcriber's Notes:

This book contains a number of misprints. The following misprints have been corrected:

[Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld. Printers, London] --> [Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ltd. Printers, London]

["Perseverence and Success,"] --> ["Perseverance and Success,"]

[With Forty-five beautiful full-page Illustration.] -> [With Forty-five beautiful full-page Illustrations.]

In the catalog at the end of the book, near "Our Lifeboats:" the size of the book is described with two numbers, the first of which is unreadable. This has been replaced with {unreadable}

An Illustrations-list has been added after the Contents-list ]