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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