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 very satisfactory.

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 teacher.

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 future.

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!