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TOM POTTER; OR, THE DOWN-HILL PATH.
HEY are well-known proverbs which say, and
with great truth, “ Every pack has a cur, and
every army a coward;” “ No village is without a public-house and a bane."
Braintree could boast of two or three banes, as many another small town can; but the one which called forth the above two proverbs from Lame Felix was Tom Potter, a red-headed, freckled-featured, saucy-looking youth, of about eighteen years of age, who was the black sheep of his family, having caused his parents to shed more tears, and endure more heartpangs, than all the rest of their children put togethera thoroughly bad boy. The proverb says, “ It is a bad soil where no flowers will grow," and yet there certainly seemed no chance of any growing up in the nature of Tom Potter. A wild lad he was; he had played more tricks, robbed more orchards, and ne
A CROOKED BRANCH.
glected more good advice than all the other boys in the town; yet he did not think himself bad; I once heard him tell Lame Felix he considered himself “ good-enough kind of fellow.” “Ay, ay," replied Felix, “the best in the town
” when all the rest have gone out.”
He was an ill-natured boy, was Tom Potter; a harmless and pleasant trick can be appreciated and smiled at, but a spiteful one is mean and cowardly. Tom would upset an infirm old woman, and think it fun, frighten a little child into fits and enjoy doing it, or rob his parents, who had a hard struggle to make both ends meet. I recollect his once taking a piece of ice to the Sunday-school, and, in the middle of the minister's prayer, drop it down the back of one of the lady teachers, causing her to give an involuntary scream as she felt it sliding down her vertebral column.
On another occasion he carried a black beetle up into the children's gallery, and during the sermon, stretched his hand across the partition which divided the boys from the girls and safely deposited it in the ear of one of Miss Lart's governesses, much to her consternation and horror ; but the act had been detected by a male teacher, a Mr Smoothy, who always carried a large gingham umbrella with which he belaboured the heads of refractory boys, and down it came on the pate of mischievous Tom, at which he cried out in a loud voice, “ You leave me alone, can't you? I didn't touch you !”
CAUGHT AT LAST.
The minister was obliged to stop, and recognising the voice- for it was not the first time it had been heard in the building—said, “That's right, Mr Smoothy, give him another."
Tom stole the minister's grapes, but being caught in the act, professed great contrition, and earnestly promised amendment if he was let go, and not punished. The minister, as kind-hearted a man as ever lived, willing the lad should have another chance to reform and mend his evil ways, after giving him a serious talking, let him off from all the consequences of his sin. But the act of mercy was wasted, except that it gave consolation to the minister's soul in the fact that he had given him another opportunity for reformationfor Tom soon plunged himself into far more serious crimes. Himself, and several others equally as bad, broke into the house of a widow lady; but when decamping with their booty, were surprised by the apparition of long-legged policeman Saville, who soon overtook and captured Tom, safely lodging him in the lock-up at the end of “Hilly Camp."
On the day after the robbery his poor mother was discovered weeping outside the lock-up door; but Tom's heart was too hardened to be moved by his mother's tears, so she went and entreated Felix to go and visit him, and try if he could bring him to a sense of his wretched condition. Felix procured an order and went, but he might just as well have preached to a stone for all the impression his words produced.
CONDEMNING THE TRAP.
A number of boys paid a visit to Felix's cottage in the evening and asked him all about it.
“It is a sad case, I'm afraid, boys," he began, shaking his head,
I never saw a more hardened lad in my life ; and to give him advice is like rubbing salt on a sore place, producing only irritation and annoyance;
he cannot, or will not, see the sinfulness of what he has done, and lays the blame on the policeman because he is in prison. Well says the wise man, 'The fox condemns the trap, not himself;' and a far wiser man has said, “ The fool doeth right in his own eyes ;' and what is a bad man or a bad lad but a foolish person, choosing to do evil instead of good, or to do wrong instead of right, and then pluming himself on the wisdom of his actions, and trying to cheat himself into the belief that he will escape the inevitable consequences of his folly ? for, sooner or later, be sure of that, boys, evil meets its reward. The Chinese say, 'Great goodness and great wickedness, sooner or later, are sure to be rewarded.' And again,
If one does not good, heaven will send upon him a hundred evils.'
“It is very easy to do evil, to commit a sin; but once done, there is no escaping from the punishment. A well-known proverb says, ' A hundred years cannot repair a moment's loss of honour.' And what nuniber of years is required to repair a sin! How easy it is to go down hill, but when you have once commenced the descent how difficult it is to stop ! and when you
A STRUGGLE FOR DEAR LIFE.
have gone a little further down the incline, how impossible it is to stop !
“I once read of an Indian who was amusing himself in his canoe, on the waters above the mighty falls of Niagara. Presently his boat was caught in the current of the stream, and he thought how pleasantly and swiftly it glided along ; but friends on the banks of the river saw how great was his danger, and shouted to warn him of it. Heedless of their cries, he suffered his canoe to go on, and on, and on, until he was thoroughly aroused to a sense of his imminent danger by hearing the thunder of the falls. Seizing his paddles, he endeavoured to row to the banks where stood his anxious friends; but now, to his horror, he found the strength of the current, which he might have easily overcome higher up, too much for him. Frantic and desperate were the efforts he made, but all of no avail, the force of the current swept the frail boat nearer and nearer to its fearful end, finally carrying it over the dreaded falls.
“So it is when a lad once commences to go the downhill path, regardless of the warnings of parents and friends, heedless that it is the path which leadeth to destruction, until they get so far on the way that no efforts of their own can save them.
There is a proverb, not a very elegant or refined one, but strong and pointed, which says of a man or lad,' 'Hell go to ruin without his boots being greased, which means, he is going the down-hill path so rapidly that he needs no aid to help him over the ground.