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.'”

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