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he heard our story dispelled the whole terror of it. “It is the grasshopper and nothing more,” said he, “ which has caused all this fearful alarm;" and then, listening for a moment, he traced it by its sound among the short, dry, sunny grass, and then held it in his hand before us. yet he was a wicked boy,” continued our father, who told a falsehood to frighten you thus. But come, let us go to dinner." So saying, and taking one by each hand, he led us from the enchanted glade to a woodman's cottage in the next dell.
THE LOST SOVEREIGN.
WHEN I was only eight years old, my father and mother being poor, with half a dozen children besides myself to take care of, I was sent to a farmer in a neighbouring town, who intended to make a ploughboy of me, and to keep me in his service until I was of age.
Well, I had not a very gay time of it in farmer Webb's service ; for although he was a tolerably kind man in his family, he knew how to make one work, and how to avoid spoiling one by indulgence. So I had plenty of work to do, and very little pleasure.
It was a great treat to me to get the great sum of one or two pennies into my possession.
I had lived with farmer Webb three years before I had seen any coin except copper. By an accident I learned the color of gold. - That is the story I am going to tell you.
One Saturday night, Mr. Webb sent me to the village shop, on some errand. On returning home, just about dusk, I noticed a little brown package lying on the road side. I
picked it up, without the least suspicion of the treasure within. It was wrapped in a quantity of brown paper.
I tore open the folds of the paper; and finding nothing, I was on the point of throwing it into the ditch, when something dropped out of it, and fell with a ringing sound upon a stone.
I looked at it in wonder and astonishment. It was yellow, round, glittering, too bright and too small for a penny. I felt it, I squeezed it in my fingers ; then something whispered to me that it was of great worth.
Trembling with excitement, I put the thing in my pocket. But it did not rest there. Every two minutes I took it out to look at it. Whenever I met anybody, I was careful to put it out of sight. Somehow or other, I felt a guilty dread of finding its owner.
Provided I found none, I thought it was honestly mine, by right of discovery; and I said to myself that it was not my business to go about the streets, crying “Who has lost ?”
I went home with it in my pocket. I would not have had the farmer folks know what I had found for the world. I was sorely troubled with the fear of losing my precious treasure. — This was not all. It seemed to me my face betrayed my secret. I could not look at anybody with an honest eye.
These troubles kept me awake half the night. On the following morning I was quite feverish. When farmer Webb, at the breakfast table, said, “William ! ” I started and trembled, thinking the next words would be “ Where is that thing you have found and wickedly concealed, to keep it from the rightful owner ?” But he only said, “I want you to go to Job Baldwin's this morning, and ask him if he can come and work for me to-day and to-morrow?"
I felt quite relieved. Leaving the house, I got out of
sight as soon as possible. Then once more I took the coin out of my pocket and gazed on its beauty. Yet I was unhappy. Consciousness of wrong troubled me, and I almost wished I had not found the fatal packet. Should I not be called a thief, if discovered ? I asked myself. Was it not as wrong to conceal what I had found, as to take the same thing from the owner's pocket ?
But then I said to myself, — Why, if I do not know who the loser is, how can I restore his property ? It is only because I am afraid farmer Webb will take it away from me that I conceal it; that's all. I would not steal it; and if the loser should ask me, I would give it to him. I apologised thus to myself all the way to Job Baldwin's house; but after all it would not do. The gold was like a heavy stone hanging on my heart. .
Job Baldwin was not at home, and I returned to the farmer's house. I saw Mr. Wardley's horse standing at the gate, and I was terribly frightened. Mr. Wardley was a constable; and I fancied he had come to take me to jail. So I hid in the garden until he went away. By that time reason began to overcome cowardice, and I made my appearance at the house. The farmer looked angrily
Now, thought I, in my sense of guilt, he is going to accuse
But he only scolded me for being so long about my errand. I never received a reprimand so willingly. His severe words sounded sweet -- I had expected something so much more terrible.
I worked all day with the treasure in my pocket. I wonder farmer Webb did not suspect something, for I stopped so often to see if the gold was really there. Much as the possession of it troubled me, the fear of losing it troubled me scarcely less. I was not happy. I wished a hundred times I had found nothing at all. I felt that it would be a relief to lay it down on the roadside; again I wrapped it in brown paper, just as I had found it, but placed it once more in my pocket. I wondered if ill-got wealth made everybody so miserable.
At night I was sent again to Job Baldwin's, and, having found him, obtained his promise to work at farmer Webb’s on the following day. It was dark when I went home, and I was afraid of robbers. I never felt so cowardly in my life. It seemed to me that anybody could rob me with a clear conscience, because my treasure was not mine. I got home, and went tremblingly to bed.
HOW THE SOVEREIGN FOUND ITS OWNER.
Job Baldwin came early to breakfast with us. I should tell you something about him. He was an honest, poor man, who supported a large family by hard work. Everybody liked him, he was so industrious and faithful; and, besides making good wages for his labor, he often got presents of meal and flour from those who enıployed him.
Well, at the breakfast table, after farmer Webb had asked the blessing, and given Baldwin a piece of pork, something was said about the “news." I suppose you have heard about my misfortune ? ” said Job Baldwin. misfortune? Why, what has happened to you ?" asked the farmer. "I thought everybody had heard of it," replied Job. “You see, the other night, when Mr. Woodley paid
, me, he
gave me a gold piece I started, and felt the blood forsake
my cheeks; all eyes were fixed upon Baldwin, my confusion was not observed.
Baldwin continued : " It seemed to me that if I should put the sovereign in my pocket, like a penny, or a half-crown, I should lose it. So I wrapped it in a piece
but as of
paper, and put it in my coat pocket, where I thought it was safe. I never did a more foolish thing. I must have lost the coin on taking out my handkerchief; and the paper of course only hindered its making a noise as it fell. When I got home, I went back to look for it; but somebody must have picked it up."
“Who could be so dishonest as to keep it ? ” asked the farmer.
I felt as if I were sinking through the floor.
“I don't know," said Job, shaking his head sadly. “I hope his conscience won't trouble him more than the money is worth; though I know this, that I sadly miss my earnings."
This was too much for me. The allusion to my conscience brought the gold out of my pocket. I resolved to make a clean breast of it, and be honest, in spite of my sense of shame. So I held the gold in my trembling hand, and said : “ Is this yours, Job ?”
My voice was so faint that he did not hear me. So I peated my question in a bolder tone. All eyes were turned upon me in astonishment; and the farmer demanded where and when I had found the gold.
I burst into tears, and confessed everything. I had expected the farmer would whip me almost to death. But he patted my head, and said, more kindly than was his habit, “Don't cry about it, William. You are an honest lad, though you have had a narrow escape. Always be honest, my boy ; and if
you do not grow rich, you will be happy in having a clear conscience.”