The Boy Who Steals
by the American Sunday-School Union
Mrs. Dudley was sitting at her dining-table.
The dessert was before her. There were fine, red
water-melons, rich and juicy, with glossy black
seeds peeping out from their hiding-places, and
musk-melons, fragrant and luscious, which grew in
her own garden. They had been gathered early
in the morning, by George and Willie, and placed
in the cellar, that they might be cool and refreshing.
The boys had assisted in planting them in the
spring, and with their little hoes they had worked
about them during the summer, and subdued the
weeds. They had watched their growth, and every
day they examined the vines to find those that were
ripe. They carefully gathered them, and sometimes
there were so many that their wheelbarrow was
quite full. Then they had the pleasure of carrying
some to their neighbours. Mrs. Dudley did not
consider good ripe fruit injurious, but much more
healthy, in summer, than meat, puddings, and
pastries, so that melons formed quite an important
part of the family dinner. The children enjoyed
them particularly, because they had raised them, in
part, by their own industry.
George asked to be excused from the table. Not
long after he left, Mrs. Dudley heard a cry, as if
some child was in trouble. She looked around.
Mary, and Willie, and Eddie were there. The
sounds of distress could not come from George, for
he never cried in that way. Mr. and Mrs. Dudley
immediately arose and went out upon the lawn.
The children followed. They looked here and there,
and soon saw a boy near the house. He had a
small bundle in his hand, and a little tin pail. I
should think he was ten or eleven years old. He
was crying, and calling to a boy who stood at the
gate. Mr. Dudley inquired of him,
"What is the matter?"
"John won't let me go home."
"How does he prevent you? What does he do
to you?" asked Mrs. Dudley.
"He won't let me alone."
"Does he try to make you fight?" she again inquired,—for
she had frequently seen that large boys
often love to tease and torment smaller ones, and she
thought perhaps this little fellow was abused by a
tyrannical companion. She thought of going to
speak to the boy at the gate, but Mr. Dudley made
further inquiries, and the child's answers were not
Mary Dudley now came near her mother, and,
speaking in a low voice, said to her, "That is the
boy who steals."
While they were talking with him a larger boy
came up, and said his teacher had sent him and the
boy at the gate to take Jimmy back to school.
"Why, what has he done?" asked one of the
group which surrounded him.
"He has been stealing the children's dinners.
He stole yesterday, and he has been stealing to-day."
This was a sad account to hear. Jimmy begged
to be permitted to go home, but Mr. Dudley told
him he had better return to the school. He then
very reluctantly walked down to the gate with the
largest boy, and I suppose was led back to his
Mrs. Dudley had never heard of this child before,
but Mr. Dudley said he had known him as a very
bad boy. She asked Mary how she happened to
know any thing about him. Mary told her that he
attended Sunday-school, and that, a few Sundays
before, one of the children could not find his cap.
A thorough search was made for it, but it could not
be found. The superintendent thought some one
must have taken it. He suspected Jimmy, because
his reputation was so bad, and followed him on his
way home. Jimmy had it on his head, and his own
cap was hidden under his sack!
The superintendent of the school talked with
Jimmy, who said he would never steal again; but,
alas! he soon forgot his good resolution. Although
he carried a dinner for himself in his tin pail, he
took whatever he liked from the baskets of his companions.
Mrs. Dudley has seen this boy several times since
she heard him crying on the lawn. She says it
always makes her feel sad to meet him, for she cannot
avoid thinking,—"that is the boy who steals."
She has learned that he has no father or mother,
but lives with his grandparents. I fear he "will
bring down their gray hairs with sorrow to the
grave." He has allowed himself to steal small
things, and as he grows older he will probably take
articles of more value. He may become a housebreaker
or a murderer.
It is dangerous to indulge in the least sin. It
hardens the heart, and stifles the whisper of that
still, small voice, which so often tells children, when
they are tempted to do wrong, "That is not right;
you should not do that."
In some Catechism the question is asked, "What
is my duty to my neighbour?" and a part of the
answer is, "To keep my hands from picking and
stealing." I suppose "picking" must mean, secretly
taking little pieces of cake, or sugar, or
any thing of the kind, of small value. I presume
Jimmy was in the habit of "picking," at his grandmother's
before he ventured to steal at school.
I could tell you several very sad stories of people
who have stolen when they were children, and who
have grown more and more wicked, as they have
advanced in years, till they became a curse to
society and themselves. "The way of transgressors
is hard." These people have no true enjoyment.
There is always a fearful looking forward to the
It is not pleasant to me to write about bad children,
and I should not do it if it were not to warn
the dear children I so much love against the formation
of wrong and sinful habits.
How much better it would be for Jimmy if he
had learned to "touch not, taste not, handle not,"
that which does not belong to him!